Hermann Ehlers
Hermann Ehlers 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...

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

. He was President of the Bundestag
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...

 from 19 October 1950 - 29 October 1954.

He was a member of the Christian Democratic Union
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...


Early life

Ehlers was born 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...

 on 1 October 1904 to Hermann Heinrich Ludwig Ehlers and Adelheid Louise Auguste (Rabe) Ehlers. His parents moved to Berlin from Sülze shortly before Hermann's birth due to the opening of a job with the post office for the elder Ehlers. Hermann was raised in a bourgeoisie, politically conservative and evangelical environment.

University and Early Political Involvement

After graduating from vocational school in Steglitz
Steglitz is a locality of the Steglitz-Zehlendorf borough in the south-west of Berlin, the capital of Germany. The locality also includes the neighbourhood of Südende.-History:...

 in 1922, Ehlers began studying law at the Humboldt University of Berlin
Humboldt University of Berlin
The Humboldt University of Berlin is Berlin's oldest university, founded in 1810 as the University of Berlin by the liberal Prussian educational reformer and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose university model has strongly influenced other European and Western universities...

. Ehlers' time at college was surely influenced by the revolutions, inflation, unemployment, and political radicalization that characterized Germany following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, and Ehler became exceedingly active in student political groups such as the "Verband der Vereine Deutscher Studenten" (United German Student Union).

Ehlers began studying at the University of Bonn
University of Bonn
The University of Bonn is a public research university located in Bonn, Germany. Founded in its present form in 1818, as the linear successor of earlier academic institutions, the University of Bonn is today one of the leading universities in Germany. The University of Bonn offers a large number...

 in the summer of 1924, where he began attending the lectures of the famous but controversial professor of constitutional law
Constitutional law
Constitutional law is the body of law which defines the relationship of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary....

, Carl Schmitt
Carl Schmitt
Carl Schmitt was a German jurist, philosopher, political theorist, and professor of law.Schmitt published several essays, influential in the 20th century and beyond, on the mentalities that surround the effective wielding of political power...

. Schmitt, a pioneer in the realm of authoritarian politics, ultimately inspired Ehlers to write his dissertation on the "Essence and Effects of an Imperial Prussian State." Ehlers was also heavily influenced by the early national-socialist Arthur Moeller van den Bruck
Arthur Moeller van den Bruck
Arthur Moeller van den Bruck was a German cultural historian and writer, best known for his controversial book Das Dritte Reich...

 during this time, and began to sympathize with the German National People's Party
German National People's Party
The German National People's Party was a national conservative party in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. Before the rise of the NSDAP it was the main nationalist party in Weimar Germany composed of nationalists, reactionary monarchists, völkisch, and antisemitic elements, and...

, a precursor to the National Socialist German Worker's Party of the 1930s.


Although initially enthusiastic about the sense of national awakening that occurred in the wake of the appointment of 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...

 as chancellor, Ehlers was ultimately turned away from the Nazi movement by his Christian beliefs and activity within the church. After passing the state bar exam and receiving the title of "Gerichtsassessor
In the German legal system, the obsolete designation Gerichtsassessor was held by judges or federal prosecutors, whose employment status today would be "on probation". Attainment of the second state legal qualification was always a pre-requisite...

" in July 1931, Ehlers began working in the administration service of the Evangelischen Kirche der Altpreußischen Union (Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union). He continued to work in various offices for the church throughout the 1930s.

In 1937, Ehlers along with three other members 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:...

 were arrested by the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 on charges of "disobedience to the state." These charges stemmed from a decision made by the Confession Church to act against the will of the Reich and publish the names of those who had succeeded from the church for political gain. Since Ehlers was not present at the meeting in which the church decided to publish these names, he was released from prison after only fourteen days. His arrest reflects the fine line he and his fellow church members were walking in relation to the Nazi government. Throughout the remainder of the Nazi-Era Ehlers would continue to identify Hitler's regime as the primary opponent of the church, and viewed the ongoing battle as a necessary one: "We no longer oppose an illegitimate church government, but rather the state. We must go the way of disobedience. This will certainly mean an exasperating fight.".

Ehlers was drafted into the military on 23 October 1940, and assigned to anti-aircraft warfare
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

 in Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

. He became a candidate for the title of officer on 20 February 1942 and was promoted to lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 a year later. Throughout his time in the military he continued to commit himself to the council of the Confessing Church.


Ehlers decided in August 1946 on the basis of his Christian beliefs to begin working with the CDU, and began his political career as a councilman in Oldenburg
Oldenburg is an independent city in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated in the western part of the state between the cities of Bremen and Groningen, Netherlands, at the Hunte river. It has a population of 160,279 which makes it the fourth biggest city in Lower Saxony after Hanover, Braunschweig...

. He was elected to the German Bundestag
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...

 in 1949, and his election as President of the Bundestag
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...

 in 1950 served as a symbol of the party's commitment to remaining interconfessional.

Ehlers death on 29 October 1954 in an Oldenburg hospital came as a surprise to all involved.

Family life and Legacy

Ehlers was married to Jutta Taubert, who died in Switzerland in 2002. Multiple schools and dormitories within Germany carry his name, and the Hermann Ehlers Stiftung continues to operate as a think tank
Think tank
A think tank is an organization that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, and technology issues. Most think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax...

 for the CDU to this day. The Evangelical Task Force of the CDU/CSU has awarded the Hermann Ehlers Medal to church and political personalities for their service to evangelicalism since 2004.

Further reading

  • 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...

    , Hermann Ehlers (1950-1954). Der politische Pädagoge mit Witz wurde zur konfessionellen Integrationsfigur, in: Das Parlament Nr. 1/2 vom 3. Januar 2011, S. 15 (online).
  • Krüger, Henning (2004). "Hermann Ehlers." Christliche Demokraten gegen Hitler: Aus Verfolgung und Widerstand zur Union. Ed. Buchstab, Günter; Kaff, Brigitte; Kleinmann, Hans-Otto. Freiburg, Germany: Herder, 2004. 138-147. Print.
  • http://www.hermann-ehlers.de/


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