Courtesy Reuters

Adenauer at 90

On October 6, 1945, Konrad Adenauer, then Mayor of Cologne by grace of the British Occupation authorities, was notified by Brigadier John Barraclough, Commanding General of North Rhine Province, as follows: "I am not satisfied with the progress of your city. . . Effective today you are dismissed as Mayor of Cologne. From here on you will no longer pursue, either directly or indirectly, any political activity whatever." A remarkable document, if only because four years later Adenauer was inaugurated Chancellor of the newly created Federal Republic of Germany, a post he was to assume, incredibly, at the age of 73, and to hold longer than any Chancellor since Bismarck. Even though only 16 years have gone by since then, it almost transcends the power of the imagination to reconstruct reality as Adenauer found it when he was chosen by a majority of one vote-his own-by the new German parliament on September 15, 1949. True, Germany had made some progress since the end of the war four years earlier. Still, the country was destroyed, devastated, crushed in the most comprehensive sense of these words. Its cities were in ruins, its factories a shambles, its transportation network punctured at a thousand vital points, its agriculture in disarray-but all that was just part of it. There was no real administration, no real economy, no real education, no real courts, poor medical facilities, poor housing and few building supplies. Administrators, entrepreneurs, labor leaders and editors were trying to get their bearings under unprecedented circumstances, and all were suspect-with regard to what they had done under Hitler and what they would do after Hitler.

Perhaps more paralyzing and dangerous even than all that was the fact that the political religion to which the majority of Germans had clung crazily or opportunistically to the last had been shot away from under them like a horse from under a traveller, and been revealed as a vicious and contemptible sham. At the same time, there was no way back to any of the ideological systems that

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