Europe since 1945: An Encyclopedia - Vol. 2

By Bernard A. Cook | Go to book overview
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Waigel, Theodor “Theo” (1939-)

German Christian Democratic politician. Theodor “Theo” Waigel was born on April 22, 1939, in the little village Oberrohr (Krumbach/Schwaben) where his Catholic parents were farm owners. After graduating from high school in Krumbach, Waigel studied law in Munich and Würzburg and received a Ph.D. He worked as a junior legal official at the office of the district attorney in the state council of Munich. Later he became the consultant to An ton Jaumann, who was secretary of state in the Ministry of Financial Affairs and minister of economy and traffic from 1970 to 1972. Finally Waigel attained the rank of senior executive officer.

Waigel's path to the political arena began in high school. He joined the Christian Democratic Junge Union in 1957 and eventually was elected its chairman; he became a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU) in 1960 and was elected to the Bundestag on the CSU slate in 1972. Since 1976 he has been voted into parliament directly by his constituents in New Ulm and has worked on several committees. In addition, he made a mark in debates about economic affairs.

Waigel has gradually improved his image: in 1982, the year in which Helmut Kohl came into power, he was elected chairman of the CSU state chapter in Bonn. As a result of the death of the Bavarian prime minister, Franz-Josef Strausz, who was later succeeded by Max Streibl, Waigel was elected chairman of the CSU at the party conference of the CSU in Munich on November 19, 1988, with 98.3 percent of the votes. In the course of the cabinet restructuring undertaken by Kohl in March 1989, Waigel was also appointed minister of finance, replacing Gerhard Stoltenberg, who was transferred to the Ministry of Defense. On the one hand, the CSU had increased its influence on federal policy, but on the other hand, Chancellor Kohl had made a strategic move by disposing, through political integration, of his rival Waigel, the chairman of the CSU, whom he called Kreuz des Südens (the southern cross, or the heavy cross from the South).

At the beginning of his term Waigel abolished the tax on interest (Steuer auf Zinserträge), but later introduced it again as the Zinsabschlag. At the meeting of the Silesian Association, in Hannover on July 2, 1989, he showed his support for the former refugees and exiles from East Europe. He also participated in meetings concerning German reunification and signed the monetary, economic, and social union between the two German states. Waigel has often been attacked for his promise on May 23, 1990, that “the taxpayers need not make sacrifices for the German Unity.” His rival in parliament, Ingrid Matthäus-Maier of the Social Democrats, advocated “financing of the German Unity on credit.”

In May 1993 another change took place in the position of the Bavarian prime minister. Streibl had to resign because of a political finance affair dubbed the Amigo-Affair. Waigel, the chairman of the CSU, applied for the position of his successor, as did the ambitious Edmund Stoiber, who was ultimately elected as the new prime minister. During the 1990s the attacks on the minister of finance have not ceased-rather they have been exacerbated by one of the worst recessions in postwar German history, coupled with high unemployment rates. For example, there were 4.7 million unemployed people in February 1997 alone. Waigel has often been viewed as a scapegoat, despite the fact that he had the longest term of any German minister of finance.

Heinzmann, Erhard. “Die Erben von Franz Josef Strauß.” Das Bayernland, April 1989, 10-11.
“Waigel, Theodor.” Munzinger-Archiv, 44, 1995.

Annette Biener

Waigel, Theodor “Theo”


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