5 January in German History

1876

Birth of Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) in Cologne, Germany. In 1917 he became Oberburgermeister of Cologne. An opponent of the Nazi regime, he was sent to a concentration camp in 1944. After the war, he worked in the founding and development of the CDU political party. In 1949 he became the first chancellor of the new Federal Republic of Germany, a post which he held until 1963.

Adenauer, who was Chancellor until age 87, was dubbed “Der Alte” (“the old man”). British historian Roy Jenkins says he was “the oldest statesman ever to function in elected office.” He belied his age by his intense work habits and his uncanny political instinct. He displayed a strong dedication to a broad vision of market-based liberal democracy and anti-communism. A shrewd politician, Adenauer was deeply committed to a Western-oriented foreign policy and restoring the position of West Germany on the world stage. He worked to restore the West German economy from the destruction of World War II to a central position in Europe, presiding over the German Economic Miracle. He reestablished the German military (Bundeswehr) in 1955. He came to terms with France, which made the economic unification of Western Europe possible.

1919

The insurrection of the communist Spartakus group in Berlin began on January 5 and lasted for seven days before it was put down. A few days later the leaders of the group, Karl Liebknecht, and Rosa Luxemburg were put to death.

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