Eugen Gerstenmaier
Eugen Karl Albrecht Gerstenmaier (25 August 1906 - 13 March 1986) was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 Evangelical theologian, resistance fighter in the Third Reich, and a CDU
Christian Democratic Union (Germany)
The Christian Democratic Union of Germany is a Christian democratic and conservative political party in Germany. It is regarded as on the centre-right of the German political spectrum...

A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

. From 1954 to 1969, he was President of the West German
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

The Bundestag is a federal legislative body in Germany. In practice Germany is governed by a bicameral legislature, of which the Bundestag serves as the lower house and the Bundesrat the upper house. The Bundestag is established by the German Basic Law of 1949, as the successor to the earlier...


Life, career, resistance

Gerstenmaier was born in Kirchheim unter Teck
Kirchheim unter Teck
Kirchheim unter Teck is a town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, in the district of Esslingen. It is located on the small river Lauter, a tributary of the Neckar. It is situated near the Teck castle, approximatively 25 km southeast of Stuttgart...


After training as a salesman, Gerstenmaier did his Abitur
Abitur is a designation used in Germany, Finland and Estonia for final exams that pupils take at the end of their secondary education, usually after 12 or 13 years of schooling, see also for Germany Abitur after twelve years.The Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife, often referred to as...

and then studied philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, German language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 and literature
German literature
German literature comprises those literary texts written in the German language. This includes literature written in Germany, Austria, the German part of Switzerland, and to a lesser extent works of the German diaspora. German literature of the modern period is mostly in Standard German, but there...

, and Evangelical theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 in Tübingen
Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen
Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen is a public university located in the city of Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is one of Germany's oldest universities, internationally noted in medicine, natural sciences and the humanities. In the area of German Studies it has been ranked first among...

, Rostock
Rostock -Early history:In the 11th century Polabian Slavs founded a settlement at the Warnow river called Roztoc ; the name Rostock is derived from that designation. The Danish king Valdemar I set the town aflame in 1161.Afterwards the place was settled by German traders...

 and Zurich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

. In 1934, he was detained for a short time for being a member of the Confessing Church
Confessing Church
The Confessing Church was a Protestant schismatic church in Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to nazify the German Protestant church.-Demographics:...

. In 1935, he became Theodor Heckel's assistant in the German Evangelical Church's office for outside affairs. After the Munich Conference in 1938, Gerstenmaier joined the resistance group about the Kreisau Circle
Kreisau Circle
The Kreisau Circle was the name the Nazi Gestapo gave to a group of German dissidents centered on the Kreisau estate of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke. The Kreisauer Kreis is celebrated as one of the instances of German opposition to the Nazi regime...


On 20 July 1944, the day of Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg's attempt
July 20 Plot
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Führer of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi-led German government...

 on Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's life at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

, Gerstenmaier was at his assigned place at the Bendlerblock
The Bendlerblock is a building in Berlin, located on the Stauffenbergstraße , south of the Tiergarten. The building was erected between 1911 and 1914 for the Imperial German Navy Offices. During the Weimar Republic it served as the seat of the Reichswehr command and the Ministry of Defence...

 in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 to support the attempted assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 and coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 against the Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 régime. Along with many others, he was arrested after the plot failed, and on 11 January 1945, Gerstenmaier was sentenced by the Volksgerichtshof to seven years in labour prison (Zuchthaus). Of course, he spent only a few months there, and was freed by US
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 troops at the end of the war. Along with Hermann Ehlers
Hermann Ehlers
Hermann Ehlers was a German politician. He was President of the Bundestag from 19 October 1950 - 29 October 1954.He was a member of the Christian Democratic Union.- Early life :...

, a German politician, he was active in the Evangelical Aid organization (Evangelisches Hilfswerk). From 1945 to 1951, he was its leader.

In the Bundestag

From 1949 to 1969, Gerstenmaier was a member of the Bundestag for the CDU. From 1949 to 1953, he was the Acting Chairman of the Foreign Board at the Bundestag, and eventually, until 17 December 1954, the Chairman.

After Hermann Ehlers's sudden death in 1954, Gerstenmaier became his successor (until 1969) as Bundestag President. With his election on 16 November 1954 arose a unique situation with two factional colleagues running against each other for the Bundestag Presidency. Against the "official" CDU/CSU candidate Gerstenmaier, whom many members, and the governing coalition, saw as being too close to the Church, stood Ernst Lemmer, put forward by FDP
Free Democratic Party (Germany)
The Free Democratic Party , abbreviated to FDP, is a centre-right classical liberal political party in Germany. It is led by Philipp Rösler and currently serves as the junior coalition partner to the Union in the German federal government...

 member Hans Reif, who lost only on the third ballot by a mere 14 votes. From 1957 until 12 October 1959, Gerstenmaier was Chairman of the Subcommission for managing the Bundestag "household".

On 31 January 1969, Gerstenmaier resigned his post as Bundestag President after public controversy about claims of certain compensation benefits, to which he was legally entitled. However, the sheer amount of these claims was considered scandal
A scandal is a widely publicized allegation or set of allegations that damages the reputation of an institution, individual or creed...

ous, and the suspicion that political influence was at work could not be allayed. His successor was Kai-Uwe von Hassel
Kai-Uwe von Hassel
Kai-Uwe von Hassel was a German politician from Schleswig-Holstein associated with the CDU party.Von Hassel was born in Gare, German East Africa ....


Gerstenmeier died in Bonn
Bonn is the 19th largest city in Germany. Located in the Cologne/Bonn Region, about 25 kilometres south of Cologne on the river Rhine in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999....

. The 29-floor highrise in Bonn, in whose building Gerstenmaier had played such a significant rôle, and in which each member of the Bundestag had an office, is nicknamed "Langer Eugen" ("Long Eugen") after Eugen Gerstenmaier. It has, however, been described as "Bonn's ugliest building". Since June 2006 it is seat of United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...


Political leanings

Eugen Gerstenmaier belonged to a CDU faction who internally criticized Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman. He was the chancellor of the West Germany from 1949 to 1963. He is widely recognised as a person who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France,...

's policy of engaging the West because that brought along with it a tendency to turn away from the goal of reuniting Germany. Even in social policy
Social policy
Social policy primarily refers to guidelines, principles, legislation and activities that affect the living conditions conducive to human welfare. Thus, social policy is that part of public policy that has to do with social issues...

, Gerstenmaier was rather critical of Adenauer and supported Ludwig Erhard
Ludwig Erhard
Ludwig Wilhelm Erhard was a German politician affiliated with the CDU and Chancellor of West Germany from 1963 until 1966. He is notable for his leading role in German postwar economic reform and economic recovery , particularly in his role as Minister of Economics under Chancellor Konrad Adenauer...

's position instead, with pointedly Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

-Protestant arguments against the "total welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

". From 1956 to 1966, he was acting CDU Federal Chairman.

Gerstenmaier belonged to the select committee of both "Union" parties (the CDU and CSU) which on 24 February 1959 put forward Ludwig Erhard as a candidate for Federal President
President of Germany
The President of the Federal Republic of Germany is the country's head of state. His official title in German is Bundespräsident . Germany has a parliamentary system of government and so the position of President is largely ceremonial...

 (Bundespräsident), although Erhard declined the honour.


In 1980, Gerstenmaier was the CDU's delegate alongside Hermann Kunst (Chairman), Alex Möller
Alex Möller
Alexander Johann Heinrich Friedrich Möller, known as Alex Möller was a German politician .Möller was born in Dortmund. He was a member of the Landtag of Baden-Württemberg from 1946 to October 5, 1961, when he was elected to the Bundestag. His successor was Walther Wäldele...

 (for the SPD
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

), Rudolf Hanauer (for the CSU) and Bernhard Leverenz (for the FDP) on the Arbitration Committee for Overseeing Compliance with the Election Campaigning Agreement in the Bundestag election campaign.

From 1977 until his death, Gerstenmaier was Chairman of the Association of Former Members of the German Bundestag (or as of 1984, the Association of Former Members of the German Bundestag and the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...



  • Der dritte Bundestag. Zum Wahlgesetz und zur Gestalt des künftigen Parlaments, in: Der Wähler, Jg. 1955, Heft 11, Seiten 495-497
  • Brauchen wir einen besseren Bundestag?, in: DER SPIEGEL, Jg. 1964, Heft 38 vom 16. September 1964
  • Öffentliche Meinung und Parlamentarische Entscheidung, in: Karl Dietrich Bracher
    Karl Dietrich Bracher
    Karl Dietrich Bracher is a German political scientist and historian of the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. Born in Stuttgart, Bracher was awarded a Ph.D. in the Classics by the University of Tübingen in 1948 and subsequently studied at Harvard University from 1949 to 1950...

     u.a., Die moderne Demokratie und ihr Recht. Festschrift für Gerhard Leibholz zum 65. Geburtstag, Tübingen 1966, Seiten 123-134
  • Zukunftserwartungen der Demokratie, in: Bitburger Gespräche, Jahrbuch 1972/73, Trier 1974, Seiten 41-50
  • Gewissensentscheidung im Parlament, in: Deutsches Ärzteblatt, Jg. 1980, Heft 30, Seiten 1855-1858
  • Streit und Friede hat seine Zeit. Ein Lebensbericht, Frankfurt am Main 1981


  • Bruno Heck
    Bruno Heck
    Bruno Heck was a German politician of the Christian Democratic Union .Heck was born into a poor Swabian catholic family. He studied philosophy and theology at the University of Tübingen. From 1957 to 1976 Heck was a member of the German Bundestag.Heck was Minister of Family Affairs and Youth from...

     (ed.): Widerstand - Kirche - Staat. Eugen Gerstenmaier zum 70. Geburtstag. Stuttgart 1976
  • Daniela Gniss: Der Politiker Eugen Gerstenmaier 1906-1986, Düsseldorf 2005
  • Michael F. Feldkamp
    Michael F. Feldkamp
    Michael F. Feldkamp, is a German historian and journalist.-Career:Feldkamp was born in Kiel. After completing his high school studies at the Gymnasium Carolinum in Osnabrück, he studied history, Catholic theology, teaching, and philosophy at the Rhineland Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn...

     (ed.): Der Bundestagspräsident
    President of the Bundestag
    The President of the Bundestag presides over the sessions of the Bundestag, the parliament of Germany, with functions similar to that of a speaker in other countries. In the German order of precedence, his office is ranked second after the President and before the Chancellor...

    . Amt - Funktion - Person.
    16. Wahlperiode, München 2007, ISBN 978-3-7892-8201-0

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.