In This Review

Adenauer: The Father of the New Germany
Adenauer: The Father of the New Germany
By Charles Williams
John Wiley, 2001, 584 pp

This detailed, lucid biography of Konrad Adenauer retraces his long career from mayor of Cologne in the 1920s to chancellor of the young Federal Republic. Williams describes a man who exhibited considerable ambition and political skill, little generosity toward his rivals and foes, and strong beliefs stemming from his Catholic faith -- namely a dislike of Bolshevism and a deep distrust of Protestant Prussia. (After World War II, he proposed a western German-Austrian federation that would neutralize the "un-German influence of Prussia.") He was never an antisemite -- indeed, he had a good Jewish friend who came to his financial rescue twice -- but also never protested the Nazi measures against Jews. Although he did not join the resistance, the Nazis arrested him in July 1944 after the assassination plot against Hitler failed. Williams' enthusiasm for this cunning and calculating statesman is rather controlled, and he points out his subject's many errors of judgment, such as his willingness to give the Nazis a major role in the Prussian government in 1932. But he also gives proper credit to Adenauer for his tremendous achievements: setting up the institutions of the Federal Republic, gradually expanding its originally limited sovereignty, and anchoring it to the supranational European enterprise and -- most important -- to France.