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Konrad Adenauerthe man who has become known as the father of the New Germanywas one of the truly great leaders of the twentieth century. In an astonishing political career that spanned six decades, this extraordinary statesman lifted Germany out of the ruins of the Second World War and helped shape the modern political landscape, both of his own country and of Europe.
Marvelously well written by esteemed biographer Charles Williams, this authoritative portrait captures the complex man who, as West Germany’s first chancellor, brought the land of the Rhine out of the devastation wrought by wartime defeat to amazing prosperity and acceptance on the world scene. Difficult yet determined, Adenauer not only instilled his homeland with both economic prosperity and democratic principles, but also succeeded in defusing the tensions between France and Germany that had dominated much of their recent history, paving the way for the Treaty of Rome and the establishment of the European Economic Community.
Born in 1876 in Cologne, Adenauer was a devout Roman Catholic who rose from obscurity when he was elected mayor of that city, a position he held for sixteen years. He went on to achieve national prominence in the Weimar Republic but was imprisoned in a concentration camp when the Nazis came to power. Years later, he organized the Christian Democratic Union and became West Germany’s first chancellor, retiring after three consecutive reelections in 1963, a few years short of his ninetieth birthday.
Williams draws on hitherto untapped sources from the former Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic for this new biography. In this unforgettable life story of one of history’s great statesmen, Williams captures the glory, the triumphs, the failures, and the enduring legacy of this exemplary figure.
A penetrating epic tale that bears testimony to this most singular of nations, Adenauer is as much about the making of modern Germany as it is about one of the twentieth century’s foremost statesmen.
List of Illustrations.
THE KAISER'S GERMANY.
'Gaudeamus Igitur Juvenes Dum Sumus'.
The End of Youth.
The Ladder of Ambition.
A Time of Tragedy.
The Management of Defeat.
The Aftermath of War.
Life Has to Go On.
The Reparations Crisis.
Cologne Is Free!
The Private and Public Mayor.
Decent Into Darkness.
They Start to Close In.
He No Longer Matters.
Keeping Out of Trouble.
A Quiet War.
'The War Is Over!'
Sacked by the British.
Another Political Birth -
Another Personal Death.
The Beginnings of the New Germany.
The Federal Chancellor.
Building Europe -
And Facing the Bear.
At Home and at Work.
Politics Is an Art -
Not a Science.
Where Does Germany Stand?
Can Anyone Be Trusted?
Enter the General.
Threats and Counter-Threats.
From Triumph to Dismissal.
KONRAD HERMANN JOSEPH Adenauer was born in 1876, at half-past three in the morning of Thursday the fifth of January, the eve of the Epiphany, as he himself might have put it, of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The birth took place at his parents' home in Cologne — Balduinstrasse, the birth certificate records — and, although occurring at an obviously inconvenient hour, seems to have passed without unusual incident. The future Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, his parents' third son, accordingly arrived into this world, admittedly by the light of an oil-lamp and on a cold winter night, in good health and apparently lusty spirits.
It was not until the following day, the feast of the Epiphany itself, that the baby's father, Johann Konrad, made his visit to the official registrar to record the birth. No doubt he took time, after absorbing the emotion of the safe delivery of a third son, to go to Mass to celebrate both the event and the feast in the appropriate manner. Given his intense and unremitting piety, it would have been the natural thing to do. Furthermore, it would not have given any offence to the registrar. Catholic feast days, however important in the Church's calendar, were not recognised as public holidays by the Prussian administration of the Rhine Province, and the rich ceremony of the Church could be conveniently followed by the more prosaic — but equally laborious — dealings with the civil authority. It was accepted, with understanding courtesy, that the two cultures had to live side by side.
The birth certificate was duly inscribed by the registrar in the Prussian script, read out to the father, and countersigned by him as a true record, with the child's names properly spelled out. Konrad Adenauer was by that act formally registered as a citizen of Prussia, born of parents of the Catholic 'religion' — as the certificate has it — and resident in Cologne. Thus was illustrated, even at his birth, one of the paradoxes of Adenauer's long life: a profound attachment to his birthplace of Cologne and to its Roman Catholicism coupled with, and on occasions conflicting with, an equally profound loyalty to a Germany which included a largely Protestant Prussia.
In fact, the origin of that paradox lies even further back in time. The truth is that, whatever their, or his, subsequent pretensions, Adenauer's parents were themselves of what was known, then as now, as 'mixed stock'. His father, for instance, Johann Konrad Adenauer, the son of a baker from Bonn — who had moved to Messdorf (at that time on the outskirts of but now a suburb of Bonn) when the bakery in Bonn failed financially — was by birth a Catholic Rhinelander. Yet at the age of eighteen he had volunteered to fight, with apparently every intention of pursuing a military career, for the King of Prussia. Adenauer's mother, Helena Scharfenberg, although claimed later to be 'pure Cologne' (and indeed she had been born there), was the granddaughter of an oboist in a regimental band from Bad Sachsa, in the Harz region of Saxony, who had settled in Cologne almost by accident. Furthermore, her father, August Scharfenberg, was a Protestant, and although he married a good Catholic shopkeeper's daughter from Bonn there was no disguising the fact that their daughter was the product of a mixed religious marriage — not at all the 'native of the Rhineland' that her son later claimed.
True, Johann Konrad's progress in the Prussian Army was far from remarkable. He spent fifteen years in relatively undistinguished service, rising to the rank of Warrant Officer in the 7th Westphalian Infantry Regiment at the time of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. The high point was at the dreadful battle of Königgrätz, where he took part in the storming of the heavily defended village of Problus and was, like many others on that day, badly wounded. As such, however, his story is probably no more than typical of the ordinary Prussian soldier of the times.
There were, of course, later elaborations of Johann Konrad's heroism at Königgrätz, revealed when his third son had risen to eminence. But the assertions that he was 'finally rescued from under a pile of dead and wounded . . . clutching a captured Austrian flag', 2 or that 'he had been promoted to Second Lieutenant ... for bravery in the face of the enemy', both of them Adenauer's own description of the event — although at different times — are, to say the least, not supported by the surviving military records. The truth seems to be that Johann Konrad was awarded a Military Medal (2nd Class) for bravery on the day and was subsequently invalided out of the army, with promotion to the rank of Second Lieutenant 'as a full invalid temporarily incapable of fulfilling an occupation'. Having rendered his undoubtedly courageous service to the King of Prussia, he deserved an honourable retirement. He was nonetheless recalled to the Prussian colours to serve as a non-combatant quartermaster in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870— 71. At the end of that brief war he was finally discharged, with a modest war service medal and with what was certainly no more than a modest military pension.
Now returned to civilian life, and without any possibility of recall to military service, Johann Konrad had to face up to the future. He had no educational qualifications beyond attendance at primary school. He had been badly wounded, and both physically and mentally was a product, after all those years, of the Prussian Army. The prospect of a profitable job in the new Cologne of the triumphant German Empire was, under those circumstances, far from promising. Nevertheless, he managed to secure a clerical post in the Prussian judicial system, working in the administration of the courts for some thirty unspectacular years, starting his career as secretary to the Court of Appeals and ending it as Chief Secretary to the most senior court in Cologne, gaining in the process the proud title of Kanzleirat, or senior clerk.
In fact, it was as high a position as he could have hoped for without a university degree or diploma of any sort, and he only reached it by dogged application to the work in hand, boring as it undoubtedly was. 'He was a stern man, ' wrote one of his contemporaries, 'not particularly likeable, but highly responsible and conscientious.' As a reward for conscientiousness he was in 1891 awarded the Order of the Red Eagle (4th Class). Although an apparently modest decoration, it was unusual for someone who had held no more than clerical office, and Johann Konrad must have been suitably proud. Indeed, in 1905 he was awarded an even higher honour, the Kronenorden (3rd Class), which was significant enough for it to be engraved on his gravestone. All in all, his second career was perhaps as good as he could have hoped for.
Johann Konrad Adenauer may not have been particularly likeable but he left a profound impression on his third son. At home he was a humourless and unrelenting father, always correctly dressed, his military moustache and pointed beard properly clipped, his high collar reaching up to his chin, which in turn was set below an unsmiling mouth. Only his eyes betrayed the restrained disappointment of a man who would have wished to remain a fighting soldier but was condemned to spend his life at a desk as a clerk. Indeed, it seems that there were only two compensations for the disappointments of his working life: his religion and his family.
Both responsibilities were taken with ponderous seriousness. Religious observance for himself and his family was at the centre of life. Every day there were prayers at home in the morning and in the evening. Every work-day, it is said, he used to stop on his way home to visit and say a prayer to the Black Madonna in the Kupfergasse. No meal could start without Grace, and on Sundays Mass at the Apostelkirche in the morning, and a further visit for silent, contemplative prayers in the late afternoon, were obligatory not just for him but for the whole family. At home there were frequent homilies on the nature of sin; and eternal hellfire, as well as the long, wasted half-life of purgatory, figured extensively in his admonitions to his wife and offspring. For a young child, it could hardly have been more daunting.
Religious observance apart, with his family Johann Konrad was equally stern in setting rules of behaviour. There was no question about who was the master in the home. He could easily lose his temper, and was quick to reprove any fault or misdemeanour. On the other hand, although with his children he was a disciplinarian — and must have been terrifying in his rage — he seems to have been genuinely concerned for their welfare and to have commanded great filial devotion and respect. Love was perhaps another matter; but even up to Johann Konrad's death his third son, at the age of thirty, would visit his father on his way back from work, and had his father's photograph hung in his own bedroom at Rhöndorf throughout the long years that he lived there.
Johann Konrad was determined that his sons should have the educational advantages which he had never had. Access to higher education would, he believed, allow them to break through the class rigidities of the Cologne of the day. The gate once opened, they would march on through to a more fulfilling life than he himself had been able to live; and he scrimped and saved to that end. Admittedly, he was never known for his generosity with money, but in this case it was saving for good purpose. Education was the key to advancement, and Johann Konrad was set on providing the means for his sons to have it. Nor, to be fair, was it just a matter of money. When it came to it, he taught all his children himself between the ages of five and six, in the year before they went to school, to make sure that they were ahead of their contemporaries.
It was most likely in 1864, while his regiment was stationed in Cologne, that Johann Konrad, at the age of thirty-one, met his future wife Helena, then aged fifteen (even at that age, apparently, a devout Catholic). On his return from the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 he sought her hand in marriage. A match between two such children of the Church was, presumably after appropriate investigation by both sides, considered suitable. It was equally convenient that they were from the same social class — he a judicial clerk, she the daughter of a bank employee. Regrettably, however, there was to be little in the way of dowry that the bride could bring to her new husband.
So far, the account of the engagement and subsequent marriage seems simple and natural, and in keeping with the times. In later life, however, Konrad Adenauer promoted the unlikely story that his father would have pursued a military career had it not been for his meeting Helena. 'It was out of the question,' he is recorded as saying, 'for Scharfenberg, the small bank clerk, to provide the dowry then required for the bride of an officer. Lieutenant Adenauer would have been refused permission to marry. He decided to leave the army and become a court clerk . . . I know this from my mother. ' This version, to put it in the mildest manner, is hardly consistent with the recorded facts; but, if nothing else, it serves to demonstrate the ability of Johann Konrad's third son in later years to modify the truth to what he perceived to be his advantage when it was required.
Although the Adenauer— Scharfenberg marriage was eminently suitable by the usual social standards, in the event the going was far from smooth. To start with, Helena was only twenty-two years old when she married, and had lived a secluded and conventional childhood and adolescence. Johann Konrad, on the other hand, was thirty-eight and had lived something of a colourful life already. In those circumstances, marital adjustment was bound to be difficult. Moreover, Helena was lively — not beautiful, with her square Saxon face and wide nose, but her eyes and mouth were ready to light up with laughter and a sense of fun. ('She used to sing all day long, ' Adenauer's recollection runs, 'while doing her housework.') Johann Konrad, by contrast, was full of discipline and gloom.
Nevertheless, the couple seem to have settled down with no more than the usual early marital disputes. Johann Konrad rented a house in the Balduinstrasse. The house itself was small, as indeed were all the houses in what was, after all, a narrow alleyway in the centre of old Cologne. The outlook was no better than dismal. Three windows looked on to a feverish and insanitary street, along which the world seem to come and go the whole day long, the ladies picking up their skirts to avoid the dirt and the men protecting their hats from any bits of rubbish which were from time to time thrown out of the windows. The Adenauers' house had only two storeys, and the rooms were no more than 'nine or ten square feet'. One, possibly the only, redeeming feature was a small garden at the back, with a tree, two vines, a vegetable patch and a small area of grass which was used for bleaching linen and which, with some imagination, might be considered to be a lawn. The young Konrad was allowed two small plots of his own, one for flowers and the other for radishes. 'This was the first lesson the earth taught, ' Adenauer was later to say.
As such, for a lower-middle-class family in Cologne at that time, the house was reasonable enough. But such was the parsimony of the father — perhaps, as it turned out, in a good cause — that the whole of the second floor, and part of the first, were let to paying guests. The ground floor was, as a result, very crowded. New babies had to sleep in their parents' bedroom; brothers had to share a room and even a bed. Furthermore, Helena not only had to look after the 'various tenants' but also wanted to make some extra money for the household by taking in needlework and sewing. It is little wonder that the children, as and when they were born and started to grow, caused the disruption that is inevitable in the confined space of any small house, even if they were able to go out on fine days to play in the little garden. Each, in its turn, demanded attention, and would cry, scream or fight for it depending on age, relative strength and seniority. In this matter, the third son was doubtless no different from the rest.
By the standards of the day the baptism of the new baby seems to have taken some time to organise. In the event, it was three weeks before the ceremony took place. Presumably relatives had to be advised but, above all, godparents had to be selected. None of this was easy, not least the choice of godparents. In truth, there seem to have been few volunteers, and the one whose name has survived — Konrad Tonger — could hardly be described as of great distinction. In fact, he seems to have been something of an odd fish. He was a dealer in bits and pieces, and had accumulated a modest fortune — although nobody knows quite how. He never married, and ended up as a bachelor lodger in Balduinstrasse 6, making friends with his landlady and the rest of the family. He was an obvious candidate for recruitment as godfather to the new Adenauer son, and seems to have readily assented. In return, he presented his godson with a gold watch and left to the parents a legacy of his entire fortune of 30,000 marks, designed to provide for the proper education of his landlady's three sons. Sadly, his generosity, at least as far as the third son was concerned, was in vain. The legacy was invested unwisely and dribbled away (Tonger himself having died when his godson was only three years old, cared for until his death, as it happened, by Helena Adenauer). Only the gold watch survived, treasured by his godson and carefully preserved throughout the long years at Rhöndorf.
The baptism duly took place on Thursday, 25 January 1876 at the nearby Mauritiuskirche. As a piece of architecture, the church was not particularly striking. It suffered from the wave of mid-century modernisation that over-took many attractive Romanesque churches during those materialistic years. In December 1859 the old church had been demolished — apparently to nobody's particular regret — and replaced with a new construction designed in what became known as the 'Cologne Historical' style by the then diocesan architect Vinzenz Statz. The style, if it can be called that, was in practice little more than a pastiche, but the church had a certain cavernous grandeur about it (and, indeed, survived the Second World War reasonably intact until pulled down in its turn in the 1950s to give way to a more modern building — to which Adenauer presented a bronze bell in 1959).
The ceremony was certainly simple, and in the lowest possible key. It was not the time in the Adenauer house for expensive fripperies, and it is certain that after the christening 'no party was given'. The business properly done, life could return to normal. Not that normal life was easy. Apart from the new baby, the two elder sons, August and Hans, also needed looking after, and as Konrad grew in years the mouths that needed feeding became more difficult to satisfy. Money was scarce — one Christmastide the children agreed to go without meat for several Sundays in succession so that their parents could afford to buy a tree and candles for the feast itself. The children had to help, too, in the house, and each brother passed on his clothes to the next brother down. Even the young Konrad had to earn his keep: at the age of five, he recalled, 'I helped [my mother] by pulling out the tacking threads [of the aprons she was sewing]... I was paid one pfennig for each apron. ' Only from time to time were there holidays, during which they would all leave Cologne to stay at harvest time in a Gasthaus near Messdorf owned by an old friend of Johann Konrad's family.
Such was Adenauer family life. It may have been hard, but there is no reason to suppose that it was unusually harsh. Certainly there were many families who could have told similar stories, a number of which would have told of very much greater hardship. Moreover, although the dangers inherent at the time in poverty were many — disease, malnutrition, and, above all, infant and child mortality — at least in these the Adenauer family were relatively lucky. A fourth child, a daughter, born in the spring of 1879 — baptised Emilie Helena Marie Louise, but always known as 'Lilli' — grew healthily to adulthood. Their misfortune was in the last child, Elizabeth, born in 1882, when Helena was no more than thirty-three years old. After only four months, the baby fell seriously ill. The doctor was summoned —always a solemn event. There were conversations with the parents in low tones. The sons, as might be imagined, were straining to hear every word. The doctor emerged with grim news, and, in 'the dark, narrow hall of our little house' told the father that the little girl was suffering from meningitis and that he was not sure 'that she would pull through'. Furthermore, the doctor went on, 'I'm not sure that one should wish for it, because it is most unlikely that she would ever recover mentally.'
What followed was a family scene of the most intense pathos. After Johann Konrad had seen the doctor out of the door and to his carriage, he came back in, 'his face ... as pale as death'. The family gathered round the table for supper in the usual manner. Grace was said, and the meal was eaten — again as usual, but in a manner much more subdued than was normal. At the end of the meal Johann Konrad said without notice: 'And now let us pray for our little Elizabeth. ' He knelt down beside the table. Helena knelt beside him, and the children followed suit. 'O Lord God, ' the father started, asking the others to repeat the words after him, 'take this child with you. Spare her the cruel fate of having to live in this world without mind or reason. Lord God, have mercy on her. ' The children dutifully repeated the words after their father, but Helena suddenly understood that Johann Konrad was praying, and instructing his children to pray, not for Elizabeth's recovery but for her death. This was more than the mother could stand. Helena stood up, burst into tears and, with her face in her hands, ran from the room. She locked herself in, and cried all day and night; and when Elizabeth died, two days later, refused to go to the funeral.
The effect of all this on a six-year-old boy can only be imagined. His father had openly prayed, and had asked him openly to pray, for the death of his baby sister. And he had done so. At the time, of course, he had not understood his mother's reaction. 'It only became clear to me much later, 'Adenauer admitted, 'what she must have felt in those moments of prayer. 'It is a sad commentary on his upbringing that for a long time the boy, and then the man, was unable to understand, let alone sympathise with, a mother's feelings about the loss of a child or the shock which she must have felt when she heard her husband praying for their — his and her — daughter's death. It also demonstrates a total acceptance of the patriarchy of his family life. If the head of the family decided that it was the right thing to do, then there could be no argument; feminine sentiments, even if they were understood, which at that moment at least they clearly were not, should be ignored. In unemotional and rational terms, if such ever exist, there was of course a perfectly reasonable justification for Johann Konrad's position; and if Elizabeth had already lived a long and full life it would have been both sensible and loving to pray for a peaceful end to an existence which was becoming intolerable through suffering.
But the males of the family had quite failed to comprehend that the death of a baby is, particularly for the mother, on a quite different emotional plane. Given this incomprehension, and the unbending inhumanity of the father, it is only possible to guess at the subsequent relations between Johann Konrad and Helena. Certainly there were no more children. Later, the whole family moved from the house in Balduinstrasse to an apartment nearby — but with no garden, to young Konrad's displeasure. But whether or not there was any emotional reconciliation between the two after the trauma of the dreadful event is unknown. What is known is the lesson drawn by their third son: it taught him, he himself said, to understand the meaning of the words Fiat voluntas tua (' Thy will be done') in the Lord's Prayer; that this is all that the children of God should ask, and nothing else. It did not, apparently, teach him anything about women.
Adenauer family life, however inward-looking and absorbed in its own domestic strains, did not take place in a vacuum. It was part of the wider community of the city, and the city was full of life and change. In the late 1870s and early 1880s Cologne was starting to come awake. True, the Prussian administration had done its best to favour its new Rhineland acquisition in the years after 1815, but there were times during those years when their efforts were far from tactful. Large statues of Prussian kings, such as that of Friedrich Wilhelm III on an outsize horse or Friedrich Wilhelm IV cast in flamboyant bronze, were much mocked, particularly during the preLenten Cologne carnival, when almost any anti-Prussian joke was given unofficial licence by the authorities. More to the point, however, was that, thanks to the Prussian municipal statute of 1856, Cologne was able to vote directly for a city council which then elected the city's mayor (although formality demanded that the mayor so elected was officially appointed by the King of Prussia). The mayor became in practice the city's chiefexecutive,with responsibility for the shipyards and ports, construction, schools, social welfare, health and the arts.
It was after the proclamation of the German Empire in 1871 that Cologne had started to reap the benefit of independent mayoral rule combined with Prussian oversight and, indeed, financial support. The apogee of this new confident harmony was the consecration of Cologne Cathedral, left unfinished in the fifteenth century, whose construction had been resumed in 1842. It was in October 1880 (two years before the birth and death of the baby Elizabeth) that the Adenauer family was able to witness one of the most splendid ceremonies that the city had ever seen. The Kaiser himself, surrounded by an entourage of unparalleled magnificence, proceeded through the streets of Cologne, acknowledging the cheers of the grateful populace as he went, until he arrived at the steps of the now finished cathedral, from which were declared not only the official consecration but also an affirmation of the unity and strength of the German Empire. It was an event quite spectacular in its theatricality and, as might be expected, impressed itself indelibly on the mind of the four-year-old Konrad Adenauer.
But this was not the end of it. Cologne was declared a strategic military centre. In the early 1880s a ring of twelve large forts with communication trenches and walls surrounded the city, and some 12,000 Prussian troops were quartered in the city itself. Their fathers had been cheered on their way to war with the French ten years before (' for three-quarters of an hour the cheering never stopped; "Wacht am Rhein" could be heard all around the Cathedral') and the soldiers were part of the social and street life of the city. As if this was not exciting enough to a young boy, this was the era of the railway. Trains came and went from the great railway station by the cathedral, across the great Hohenzollern Bridge for the east and the unknown capital city of Berlin, or down the river to Bonn and Koblenz, or up-river to Düsseldorf and the factories of the Ruhr. These were places of magic and mystery to a city boy, and the trains which went there objects to excite the imagination.
The city, too, was in the late 1870s on the verge of, and almost preparing itself for, a transformation. The hectic expansion of the city outwards was yet to come. The trams were still horse-drawn and inefficient; the carriages crowded up against one another in the narrow streets; the markets were still chaotic; and petty criminals flourished. Yet the place had a bustling energy which only needed direction to turn the city from a provincial capital into one of the great centres of Germany and, indeed, Europe. It needed a mayor of power and decision. One such was to emerge in the following decade. For the moment it was a city in waiting.
'My father didn't talk very much about that time, ' Adenauer's son Max has written, referring to the years in Balduinstrasse. It is perhaps understandable. Recollections of early childhood are frequently dim and distorted. Yet on the evidence, such as it is, it is hard to believe that those years, formative as they are on the character, were easy for the young child. In later life, to be sure, Adenauer was at pains, when interviewed about the period and his parents, to emphasise their love and devotion (while admitting that his father's discipline was 'strict'). Nevertheless, on such occasions his voice, while retaining the lilting accent of the Rhineland, takes on an even drier tone than usual. It is as though he felt diffidence, and possibly embarrassment, at discussing the intimacies of early family life. He did not believe, he is reported as saying on one occasion, that in his early childhood life in his parents' home differed from that of the average family, although he did admit that his parents would quarrel, both of them being 'rather short-tempered'. That, however, was as far as he would go, apart from what sounds like a somewhat mechanical passage describing his father's virtues — sense of duty, honesty, industry and so on.
No doubt it was all true; indeed, his father's career bears it out. But those are public virtues. Much is said about parental rules; little is said about parental love. It is as though Adenauer wished to avoid the subject altogether. This, of course, may have been deliberate. Although his family lived in Cologne, it is a fair conclusion that it was the discipline of Prussia rather than the raucous jollity of the Rhineland which ruled in the parents' home, and Adenauer both felt himself, and wished to present himself, as a son of the Rhine. Be all that as it may, it certainly was true that his father had prepared him well for the next stage in the child's life, the point at which he entered the rigours of the Prussian education system. But the doubt remains whether the little boy had received from either parent in full measure the good cheer, the open expression of love or the gentle guidance which would allow him to develop easily to an untroubled maturity. The abiding impression of Balduinstrasse 6 is that laughter and gentle affection were at a definite premium.
Posted February 18, 2003
Charles Williams narrates with panache the life of stern and energetic Konrad Adenauer who came to the attention of the world well in the twilight of his life. Adenauer, staunch defender of the Catholic faith and strong German patriot, was born in a very modest family a few years after the proclamation of the Second Reich. After serving in the pre-war imperial bureaucracy, Adenauer gradually became the deserving, leading political figure in his native city of Cologne by the end of WWI. Adenauer assumed with cunning ability and efficiency the mayoralty of Cologne under the Weimar Republic before the Nazis obliged him to resign from his elected position in his late fifties. At that time, Adenauer himself thought that he was "kaput": he was a political liability in the eyes of the Nazis and close to financial bankruptcy. To his credit, Adenauer kept a low profile in Nazi Germany, put order in his finances with the help of (Jewish) friends and emerged with his political credentials relatively intact from the ruins of the Third Reich at the end of WWII. After neutralizing his political adversaries with ruthless efficiency and obstinacy, Adenauer was successively elected leader of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) and then first post-war Chancellor of former West Germany with the approval of the occupying allies. To the victors and German internal opposition, Adenauer quickly revealed himself as a tough negotiator who was very good at dividing his adversaries by exploiting their weaknesses, in order to progressively restore the sovereignty and dignity of his beloved fatherland under the leadership of the CDU. Furthermore, Adenauer progressively overcame his parochialism by taking a leading role in the reconstruction of a unified, prosperous Western Europe at peace with itself on an equal footing with such personalities as Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet, Alcide de Gasperi and Paul-Henri Spaak. Although Adenauer died in 1967, his political legacy must remain a source of inspiration to his successors. Germany, aware of its not always glorious past and its long time pro-European stance, is called to take over the leadership in the further construction of a democratic, prosperous, and strong Europe to the chagrin of especially one nation. The center of gravity of the European Union will be moving eastwards in the coming years after the integration of Middle-European and Eastern European Nations. Future German chancellors will play a key role in the undertaking of eventually turning the dream of a United States of Europe into a reality in partnership with the United States of America. Only a Europe speaking with one voice in economic, military, political and social matters will be systematically taken seriously by the other great powers of this world.
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