The Eight German Chancellors at a Glance

german chancellor konrad adenauer

Germany Chancellor

Angela Merkel is the current chancellor of Germany and the first woman in this position. Since 1949, Germany had a total of eight chancellors. An overview of the all Federal Chancellors of Germany and their main work.

What is a chancellor?

The chancellor is the leader of Germany and politically the most powerful German official. The Federal Chancellor is elected by the German Bundestag on a proposal by the Federal President without prior discussion. The legislative period is four years. Unlike in the USA with two terms, there is no restriction of legislative periods in Germany. Record holder is until now Helmut Kohl with 16 years of being the chancellor of Germany.

Konrad Adenauer

Term: 1949-1963.

Former profession/ education: economist and lawyer.

Former political offices: mayor of the city Cologne.

Konrad Adenauer was born in 1876. During the time of World War II, he got arrested due to opposing against the nazis. In 1949, more than four years after the end of the war, he was elected as the first Federal Chancellor of the newly founded Bundesrepublik Deutschland ( = Federal Republic of Germany). His governmental style was considered authoritarian. As an experienced politician, he focused on three major issues: the west integration, rearmament and reconstruction of Germany. 

Ludwig Erhard

Term: 1963-1966.

Former profession/ education: economist.

Former political offices: trading minister of the federal state Bavaria, economics minister of Germany.

Ludwig Erhard was born in 1897. When the CDU urged Adenauer to withdraw as the chancellor of Germany in 1963, the party selected the former economics minister Ludwig Erhard as his successor. Ludwig Erhard is considered as the “father” of the German Wirtschaftswunder ( = economic miracle), which means the fast development and reconstruction of the West German and Austrian economy after Word War II. His major trademark was a cigar. He was said to have smoked around 15 of them every day. In 1966, he resigned as the chancellor of Germany.

Kurt Georg Kiesinger

Term: 1966-1969.

Former profession/ education: lawyer.

Former political offices: prime minister of the federal state Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Kurt Georg Kiesinger was born in 1904. He formed the first large coalition of Germany with the biggest parties CDU and SPD. Kurt Georg Kiesinger was the chancellor of the famous 1960s student movement. The adoption of the so-called emergency laws, which gave the state special rights in the event of a crisis, was the driving force behind the formation of the student movement. Due to his past during the time of national socialism, Kut Georg Kiesinger was very controversial. 

Willy Brandt

Term: 1969-1974.

Former profession/ education: journalist.

Former political offices: mayor of Berlin, deputy of the German parliament, federal foreign minister, chairman of the party SPD.

Willy Brandt was born in 1913. He was the first socialist German chancellor. During his term, he especially succeeded in improving the political relationships between the Eastern States. Brandt set a sign of reconciliation with his famous genuflection in front of the memorial in the former Ghetto of Warsaw – an act with which he was asking for forgiveness for the horrors in the Nazi era. For his efforts, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971. 

Helmut Schmidt

Term: 1974-1982.

Former profession/ education: economist.

Former political offices: senator of the police department Hamburg, German minister of defence, German minister of finance and economy, federal chairman of the party SPD.

Helmut Schmidt was born in 1918. After Willy Brandts withdrawl in 1974, he became the 5th chancellor of Germany. Schmidt was especially famous for his very sober and efficient reactions when it came to problems like oil crisis, inflation or economic downturn. Even when the famous RAF ( = Roten Armee Fraktion, Red Army Faction) was trying to blackmail him, he didn’t respond to any of their demands. In 1982, he was overthrown by a no-confidence vote. Until his death in 2015, Helmut Schmidt was a very frequent guest in many German talk shows. One of his trademarks: almost never without a cigarette.

Helmut Kohl

Term: 1982-1998.

Former profession/ education: historian and political scientist.

Former political offices: Prime minister of the federal state Rheinland-Pfalz, member of the German parliament

Helmut Kohl was born in 1930. Until today, he is holding the record for being the chancellor of Germany for the longest period of time: 16 years. One of his major achievements was the German reunification in 1990. He is not only regarded as a chancellor of the unity, but also had a strong interest in the convergence of Europe.

Gerhard Schröder

Term: 1998-2005.

Former profession/ education: lawyer.

Former political offices: prime minister of the federal state Lower Saxony.

Gerhard Schröder was born in 1944. He was the first German chancellor of a red-green (middle/ left wing) government. During his term, it was the first time, that the German army ( = Bundeswehr) took part in a foreign operation of the NATO like for example in Afghanistan. When Schröder reorganizated the social system, the so-called Agenda 2010, many people went on the streets to protest against the “social barrage”.

Angela Merkel

Term: since 2005.

Former profession/ education: physicist.

Former political offices: German federal minister for women and youth, German environment minister.

Angela Merkel was born in 1954. After Gerhard Schröder lost the question of trust in 2005, federal elections became necessary. Merkel is considered as “Kohl’s Mädchen” ( = Helmut Kohls girl), which means, that he had a major influence in her political career when he made her to be a minister in his cabinet by the end of the 1990s. The current chancellor of Germany is famous for her pragmatic leadership style and is considered as the most powerful woman in the world.

Featured image (cropped): Konrad Adenauer – Paul Bouserath Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

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