Ludwig Erhard: A Biography

Ludwig Erhard: A Biography

Ludwig Erhard: A Biography

Ludwig Erhard: A Biography


In the first English-language biography of one of the most important figures in postwar German history, Alfred C. Mierzejewski examines the life and service of Ludwig Erhard (1897-1977), West Germany's first minister of economics and second chancellor. Erhard liberalized the German economy in 1948 and is generally considered the father of West Germany's "economic miracle"--the period of extraordinary growth in jobs and improvement in the standard of living in the 1950s that helped stabilize Germany's first successful democracy.

While recent scholarship has dismissed Erhard's influence on Germany's economic recovery, Mierzejewski returns to little-cited German analyses and Erhard's own record and concludes that Allied currency reform and Erhard's liberalization of the economy were crucial triggers for Germany's unprecedented economic boom. Mierzejewski provides insight into Erhard's policies, his ideas, his character, and his relationships with Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle. By offering a fresh account of Erhard's career as a leader in postwar West Germany, Mierzejewski provides a deeper understanding of Germany's economy as well as its democracy.


On 9 November 1918 Adolf Hitler lay in a military hospital in Pasewalk, recovering from injuries that he had sustained in an Allied gas attack at Wervick, south of Ypres, on the night of 13–14 October 1918. When he heard the news of Germany's defeat, he was shocked. He then conjured up a vision of a new Germany organized on a racist foundation that would launch a cataclysmic war of revenge and conquest to smash the Jewish-Bolshevik world conspiracy that he thought was to blame for his country's humiliation. Beginning in 1933, Germany followed Hitler's warped vision for twelve years, leading to death and destruction both for itself and for Europe.

On that very same 9 November 1918, Ludwig Erhard was also lying in a military hospital. He was recovering from severe wounds that he had suffered on 28 September 1918, just two and a half weeks before Hitler was gassed, when he was struck by fragments from an Allied artillery shell at Ypres, not far from where Hitler had been wounded. After seven operations, with his left arm permanently shortened and his left leg weakened, Erhard finally emerged from the hospital in the spring of 1919. Unlike Hitler, whose wounds were far less serious, Erhard did not turn to radical solutions for his and Germany's problems. He did not project his own misfortune onto the nation. Instead, he retained his essentially optimistic, tolerant, middle-class views and calmly went about putting his life back together. in 1948 Erhard became the most important economic policy maker in western Germany, a position that he retained for eighteen years. He helped steer Germany toward prosperity, democracy, and peace. the contrast between the result of his policies and those of Hitler's could not be greater.

A mountain of books and articles devoted to Hitler and every conceivable aspect of his nefarious rule weighs down the bookshelves. in stark contrast, only a trickle of German-language books concerning Erhard and his policies has appeared. Strikingly, only a handful of Englishlanguage works discusses his actions in any detail, the most prominent being the excellent study of the origins of the social market economy . . .

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