Konrad Adenauer: A German Politician and Statesman in a Period of War, Revolution, and Reconstruction - Vol. 1

By Hans-Peter Schwarz | Go to book overview

need, cannot disguise this appalling tragedy. There is no hope of improvement, no prospect of a change for the better! Is it any surprise that people are worn down and defeated by this desperate daily struggle? Can we wonder that they begin to think only of material things or seek oblivion and stupor? Our people are being tormented physically and psychologically, providing a breeding ground for materialism and love of Mammon; the awareness of what is spiritual and religious will disappear, and immorality and lack of authority are bound to prosper. Materialism, immorality, lack of authority -- these are the sicknesses to which our people have utterly succumbed.

These passages contain virtually all the elements of Adenauer's critique of the age. They were, of course, views held by large numbers of Centre Party members. Decades later, in the difficult years after the Second World War, Adenauer made many remarks which echoed the sentiments he had expressed in 1922, but he was rarely so open about his sense of hopelessness. In his diagnosis, the ills of society could not be attributed to the war alone. Other factors included the influence of non- Christian principles for more than fifty years, and the dominance of materialism over the preceding decades. Technological advances and the vast fortunes they had produced had undermined 'the awareness, the understanding of tradition, of the spiritual, the supernatural . . . '

Adenauer argued that, in this respect, city life was a great evil. Experience showed that 'the spiritual sickness of the people' developed first in the cities before spreading 'with tremendous rapidity' to the countryside. 'The real malaise of the city is the rootlessness of its people. Unlike the inhabitants of the smaller towns and the countryside, they lack the calming balance, the relaxation and regeneration that is constantly provided by attachment to the soil, to nature, and they lack the support given by the fact of belonging to a smaller community . . . The German people cannot cope with the fact that several generations have been born and brought up in the big cities, however much we legislate to improve conditions.'

These were astonishing remarks from the mayor of a great city and a man evidently committed to progress and modernisation. Indeed, they have led some people to regard Adenauer as having a deeply divided personality: an urban man constantly trying to return to nature; a dynamic municipal leader who really doubted that his problems could ever be solved; a man who believed in progress but was also convinced that it would bring ruin to the people. In this sense, the Cologne green-belt project can be viewed as Adenauer's attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable.

He continued his speech by arguing that universal materialism was also destroying international relations: 'The seed sowed by materialism has borne terrible fruit. Its last and most important one is war: this is produced by the desire for dominance among the peoples that is inseparable from the materialistic view of the world. Nobody who has followed the history of the last decades can have been surprised that the entire development ended in an appalling catastrophe . . . '

-164-

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Konrad Adenauer: A German Politician and Statesman in a Period of War, Revolution, and Reconstruction - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Prologue: Cologne 3
  • I - The Young Master Adenauer 1876-1906 33
  • Student Years In Freiburg, Munich and Bonn 59
  • Justitia Coloniensis 64
  • 'A Talent Takes Shape in Stillness' 69
  • II - The First Rapid Rise 1906-1917 83
  • The First World War 93
  • The Youngest Mayor in Prussia 105
  • III - The Mayor 1917-1933 113
  • The Rhineland Movement 1918-1919 133
  • Pater Familias 152
  • Modern Cologne 156
  • Political Recognition at National Level 164
  • 1923 -- Year of Crisis 172
  • 'the Mayors of Contemporary Germany Are the Kings of Today' 195
  • In the Maelstrom Of the World Economic Crisis 210
  • IV - In the Third Reich 1933-1945 229
  • Struggle for Survival 241
  • A Pensioner in Rh"Ndorf 269
  • 'It is a Miracle of God That I Have Survived' 281
  • V - The Party Leader 1945-1949 289
  • Dismissal by the Liberators 321
  • 'Adenauer's Seizure of Power' 329
  • The Party Leader 359
  • Towards the Federal Republic of Germany 382
  • The President of the Parliamentary Council 408
  • Setting the Course 421
  • VI - First Years as Chancellor 1949-1950 433
  • The Political Tableau During Bonn's Early Days 450
  • Adenauer's Political Machine 465
  • Strenuous Beginnings of Westpolitik 476
  • 'the Most Disappointed Man in Europe' 489
  • The Schuman Plan 504
  • 'that Bully Adenauer' 517
  • In the Depths of Unpopularity 555
  • Adenauer's Daily Life 570
  • VII - European Statesman 1950-1952 587
  • Europe 608
  • Western Treaties and Soviet Initiatives 628
  • 'the Wings of World History' 642
  • Warding off the Moscow Note Offensive 650
  • The Breakthrough: The Signing of the Western Treaties 665
  • Afterword 689
  • Notes 703
  • Archival Sources 735
  • Pictorial Sources 737
  • Published Sources and Select Bibliography 739
  • Index of Persons 747
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