Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Adenauer

On April 19, 50 years ago Konrad Adenauer, first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, died. On this occasion Der Spiegel published an article Geheimakte Adenauer (Adenauer's secret files) revealing that amongst other deeds der Alte (the old fox) had used the secret services to spy on the opposition party (Social Democrats) and its leaders.

@Der Spiegel
They also mentioned again the arrest of Der Spiegel's editor in chief, Rudolf Augstein, in 1962 for publishing an article: Bedingt abwehrbereit (Limited Preparedness) claiming that the German Bundeswehr (defense force) was incapable of meeting an attack from the Eastern Block. Adenauer accused Augstein and his collaborators of high treason stating in the Bundestag (parliament): Ich schaue in einen Abgrund von Landesverrat (I am looking into an abyss of treason).

What the chancellor did not expect: The German people stood up and showed that democracy Adenauer had vaccinated them with worked. In the aftermath of the Spiegel Affair he had to fire several of his ministers and reshuffle the government and never regained his popularity.

At the beginning of his chancellorship* Adenauer's credo was based on three pillars: Integrating Germany into the western alliance in spite of deferring German reunification for ever and a day, reconciliation with France, and social market economy leading to the Wirtschaftswunder (Germany's economic miracle).
*Adenauer became chancellor at an age of 73 with a one vote majority (his own) in 1949 and stepped back in 1963 at an age of 87.

Adenauer, a man educated in the Kaiserreich of the19th century and at the end plagued by senil stubbornness, understood democracy as being something useful for his Christian Democratic Party. His opinion about the German voter: Der dumme Bürger, meine Herren - und der Bürger in Deutschland, ich weiß nicht wie er anderswo ist, ist strohdumm! -, glaubt das. (The dumb citizen, gentlemen - and the citizen of Germany, I don't know how he is elsewhere, is empty-headed! -, believe that).

Nevertheless in Adenauer's case we should not apply Shakespeare's dictum: The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. 

Requiescas in pace, Konrad, Du hast Dich um Dein Land verdient gemacht! (May you rest in peace, Konrad, you served your country well!)

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