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Konrad Adenauer: a pragmatic democrat and tireless unifier

In past decades and centuries, coal and steel have played a destructive role in conflicts between the peoples of Europe, having been used to manufacture weapons. Let us hope coal and steel will now unite them in thinking and acting together.

Konrad Adenauer

Life and times

Born in Cologne on 5 January 1876, Adenauer’s marriage into an influential Cologne family led him to become active in politics. Taking full advantage of his political talent, as a member of the Catholic ‘Zentrum’ party his career took flight and he became Mayor of Cologne in 1917.

From the late 1920s, the National Socialist (Nazi) Party began a slander campaign against Adenauer. In 1933, after the Nazis had taken power, Adenauer refused to decorate the city with swastikas for a visit by Hitler. He was then dismissed from office and his bank accounts frozen. After the failed attempt on Hitler’s life in 1944, Adenauer was imprisoned in Cologne‘s notorious Gestapo prison, Brauweiler.

After the war, he devoted himself to establishing the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) which he hoped would unite Protestant and Catholic Germans into one party. In 1949, he became the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).

A vision for Europe

Adenauer’s experiences during the Second World War made him a political realist and he focused his attention on promoting the idea of pan-European cooperation. Adenauer was a great proponent of the European Coal and Steel Community, which was launched with the Schuman Declaration on 9 May 1950, and the Treaty for the European Economic Community, signed in March 1957.

Konrad Adenauer, speaking in Metz, 1966


More about Konrad Adenauer’s life, work and contribution to the European project