First free West German Federal Elections

The first free West German Federal elections took place on 14 August 1949. Following the end of World War II in 1945, the country had been divided into four occupation zones: American, British, French and Soviet. Only the people in the Federal Republic of Germany (the three West German zones) participated in the elections. The turnout was 78.5%. Earlier, Bonn had become the provisional capital of the new democratic state. As a territory under Allied supervision, Berlin’s deputies did not get to cast their votes in the elections.

Most West German parties at the time of the 1949 West German Federal elections were committed to democracy. However, they disagreed on the kind of democracy. The Christian Democratic (CDU) leader and former mayor of the city of Cologne, 73-year-old Konrad Adenauer, was party chairman in the British Zone. He wanted a moderate, non-denominational, humanist Christian democracy. The Social Democratic (SPD) leader, Kurt Schumacher, pushed for a left-wing, patriotic party. He strongly opposed the earlier merger of the SPD with the Communist Party (KPD) in the Soviet zone and called Adenauer “Chancellor of the Allies.”

CDU/CSU President Konrad Adenauer

Konrad Adenauer
First President of the Federal Republic of Germany

In the first free West German Federal elections, the Christian Democrats formed a coalition with the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Conservatives (DP). Together, they obtained 31% of the votes. The Social Democrats achieved 29.2%. Therefore, on 15 September 1949, Konrad Adenauer was elected the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. He had made sure that the votes of the predominantly Social Democratic deputies from West Berlin did not count and later stated that he “naturally” had voted for himself. Adenauer held the office until 1963 and was re-elected three times. Schumacher assumed the chair as the minority leader of the SPD, ran for President of West Germany, but was defeated by FDP chairman Theodor Heuss.

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.




Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply