Called "The Father of the New Germany," Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) was born on this day in Cologne, Germany where he served as mayor (1917-1933). After the failed assassination attempt on Hitler in 1944, Adenauer was imprisoned by the Nazis.
"History," Adenauer once said, "is the sum total of things that could have been avoided."
After World War II, the statesman dedicated his life to rebuilding his homeland. He formed the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a new political party which joined Protestants and Catholics and helped draft a constitution for his country.
At age 73, he was elected chancellor of the West German Republic and served for 14 years (1949-1963), leading his country from diagrace to sovereignty and economic recovery. Restoring honor, he brought West Germany into NATO, the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization.
"A thick skin is a gift from God," observed the extraordinary politician who was known as "der Alte" (the old man), a term of affection because of his age and longevity in office. Adenauer was an excellent administrator with a strong work ethic and a great sense of humor.
"In view of the fact that God limited the intelligence of man," he quipped, "it seems unfair that He did not also limit his stupidity."
An advocate for European unity, under his guidance, Germany made amends to Holocaust survivors and pardoned war criminals. His country healed. He performed an "economic miracle" as unemployment fell from 8% in 1950 to 0.4% in 1965.
West Germany, he said, was "the rare case where the conquered is very much satisfied with the conqueror." In 2003, his countrymen voted him the greatest German of all time.
Our strength is in our diversity.