Cold War Statesmen Confront the Bomb: Nuclear Diplomacy since 1945

By John Lewis Gaddis; Philip H. Gordon et al. | Go to book overview

11
Konrad Adenauer: Defence Diplomat on the Backstage

ANNETTE MESSEMER


The Heritage of the Holocaust

At the dawn of the nuclear age, Konrad Adenauer was not yet involved in international politics. Unlike Churchill, Eisenhower, de Gaulle, and Stalin, he did not have any major experience in military strategy, warfare or international politics before or during World War II, and until the beginning of 1945 he did not know that the future still held a second political career for him. Adenauer was reinstated by the Allies as mayor of the Rhineland city of Cologne in May 1945, a post he had been forced to leave at the age of 57 in 1933 in order to escape persecution from the National Socialists. He spent twelve years as a pensioner in the politically less dangerous environment of Rhöndorf, a sleepy village on the banks of the Rhine, 15 miles south of Cologne. Back in office, he once again had to reconstruct the city as he had done after World War I, and even more important to his future career, he had to gain confidence from the Western powers.

Worse than in 1918-19, two-thirds of Cologne lay in ruins. In a letter to a friend Adenauer wrote: 'The major parts of Cologne are devastated. Although the city again numbers approximately 500,000 inhabitants, one-third are living in cellars or partially destroyed homes. I visited several German cities over the last weeks, but I have not seen any city that is as destroyed as Cologne. The cathedral is still there, but most of the roof is shattered. . . There is barely anything left of the city hall. 1 The political legacy of the National Socialists further complicated the reconstruction of post-war German political life. The Allied Powers took necessary precautions to ensure that once and for all a totalitarian system had no chance of regaining power on German soil. It was not until 6 August 1945, the day of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, that British military authorities reduced restrictions on the organization of political parties, unions, and newspapers in their zone. It was during these following months that Adenauer seized the opportunity to create a new Christian Democratic Party -- Adenauer was once a member of the Catholic Zentrumspartei -- and to push for the unification of the Western zones.

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