Erich Mende

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Erich Mende (1961)

Erich Mende (born October 28, 1916 in Groß Strehlitz , Groß Strehlitz district in Upper Silesia ; † May 6, 1998 in Bonn ) was a German officer , lawyer and politician ( FDP , then CDU ). From 1960 to 1968 he was federal chairman of the FDP and from 1957 to 1963 also chairman of the FDP parliamentary group. From 1963 to 1966 he was Federal Minister for All-German Issues and was also Vice Chancellor .

As a simple member of the Bundestag, he rejected the New Ostpolitik of the SPD-FDP government and left his party and parliamentary group in 1970. He was then elected twice to the Bundestag for the CDU.

education and profession

After graduating from high school in 1936, the son of a city councilor of the Center Party was first drafted into the Reich Labor Service and then into the Wehrmacht . From 1938 to 1945 he was a career officer, most recently with the rank of major as deputy regimental commander in the 102nd Infantry Division . In the last year of the war he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross , which he later was one of the first to wear again in public.

Shortly before the end of the war, Mende was taken prisoner by the British . After his release, he ended up in the Ruhr area as a displaced person and began studying law in Cologne and Bonn . In 1948 he laid the first legal state examination and was in 1949 with the work of the parliamentary immunity law in the Federal Republic of Germany and their countries to Dr. jur. PhD . He then worked as a lecturer in political science at the University of Bonn. After his resignation as minister, he worked as Germany manager for "IOS - Investors Overseas Services " with the American financial entrepreneur Bernard Cornfeld until its bankruptcy in 1971. In 1970 he switched to financial sales at Bonnfinanz as a business lawyer .

In the post-war period Mende was one of the most committed members of the Bundestag on the war criminals question and campaigned for the release of German war criminals abroad. For example, he received an SS man who had fled a prison in the Netherlands in the Federal Palace.

Erich Mende was married twice and had three sons and a daughter. His eldest son, Walter Mende , was a member of the SPD and was Lord Mayor of Leverkusen from 1994 to 1999 . Erich Mende was buried in the castle cemetery in Bad Godesberg .

Political party

Federal party conference of the CDU 1971 in Düsseldorf

Mende joined the FDP in 1946 , although he was originally more inclined to the CDU . In February 1946 he was first elected state secretary of the FDP in North Rhine-Westphalia and then in June 1947 as a representative of the young democrats on the board of the FDP in the British zone .

From 1949 he was a member of the FDP federal executive committee and from 1960 to 1968 federal chairman of the FDP. After the Naumann affair , he decided to run against the candidate of the ailing North Rhine-Westphalian FDP chairman Friedrich Middelhauve for the office of deputy state chairman, Hermann Schwann (later chairman of the Action Group for Independent Germans ), and was on March 7, 1953 with large majority elected to succeed the late Hans Albrecht Freiherr von Rechenberg . Mainly federal politicians, Mende was rather distant in 1956 from the actions of the so-called "Young Turks" around Walter Scheel , Wolfgang Döring and Willi Weyer , who pushed through the coalition change from the CDU to the SPD in North Rhine-Westphalia and thus the external reason for the split off of the Euler Group and the founding of the FVP gave and would have preferred to prevent the break of the coalition with the CDU at the federal level.

In the federal election in 1961 , the opposition party FDP went with the statement that it would under no circumstances Konrad Adenauer allowed to vote for Chancellor. Mende achieved the best Bundestag election result of his party up to 2009 with 12.8 percent. The FDP's promise to enter a coalition only without Chancellor Adenauer could not be fulfilled because the CDU insisted on Adenauer's chancellorship. Although the FDP entered into a coalition with the Union, Mende refused to accept a cabinet post and remained chairman of the parliamentary group. Nonetheless, his party subsequently had the reputation of "falling over".

In January 1968 Mende no longer ran for the chairmanship of the FDP, and the former Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation Walter Scheel was elected as his successor . Mende remained a member of the federal executive committee. From 1959 to 1971 he was a member of the Advisory Board of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation .

In October 1970 Mende moved from the FDP to the CDU / CSU parliamentary group because he did not want to support the eastern political course of the Brandt / Scheel government , and he also became a member of the CDU.


From 1948 to 1950 Mende was a member of the city council of Opladen . From 1949 to 1980 he was a member of the German Bundestag . Here he was from 1949 to 1951 and again from 1952 parliamentary director of his group. From 1953 to 1957 he was deputy parliamentary group chairman and from 1957 to 1963 chairman of the FDP parliamentary group . As an opponent of the Eastern Treaties, which were largely determined by the FDP under Walter Scheel, Mende joined the CDU / CSU parliamentary group on October 9, 1970, together with Heinz Starke and Siegfried Zoglmann (the latter only as a guest) .

Mende was elected to the Bundestag from 1949 to 1969 via the North Rhine-Westphalian state list of the FDP, and in 1972 and 1976 via the Hessian state list of the CDU.

Erich Mende was one of the ten MPs, along with Ludwig Erhard , Hermann Götz , Gerhard Schröder (all CDU), Richard Jaeger , Franz Josef Strauss , Richard Stücklen (all CSU), Erwin Lange , R. Martin Schmidt and Herbert Wehner (all SPD). who had belonged to the German Bundestag for at least 25 years without interruption since 1949. When Mende resigned from the Bundestag in 1980, he was one of seven members who had been in parliament since 1949.

Public offices

On October 17, 1963, he was appointed Federal Minister for Pan-German Issues and Deputy Federal Chancellor in the federal government led by Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard . When the coalition broke , Mende resigned from these offices together with the other FDP federal ministers on October 28, 1966.

Contergan scandal

Erich Mende was the first politician who, in 1958, took up the report by the Bayreuth pediatrician Karl Beck on the accumulation of malformed newborns and stillborns and helped it spread to the public. At that time it was still suspected that the malformations could be related to nuclear weapon tests. Since there was no uniform register of residents for such cases after the Second World War, he submitted an inquiry to the German Bundestag on May 14, 1958, with the request that a survey be carried out as to whether the number of births had increased since 1950 and whether this was in connection with atomic tests. On March 18, 1959, his question was answered negatively on both points. But Mende had brought the topic to a wider public and was thus a pioneer for further inquiries and investigations, which ultimately led to the disclosure of the Contergan scandal in autumn 1961 .



For his services in preventing the demolition of the Naval Memorial in Laboe , Mende received the Golden Oak Leaf from the German Navy Federation in 1983. Nine days after his death, Mende was honored with a state ceremony on May 15, 1998 by the German Bundestag .


  • The parliamentary immunity law in the Federal Republic of Germany and its countries . legal dissertation, Cologne 1950.
  • State political essays . Madel, Bonn 1952.
  • Germany between risk and security , Bonn 1965.
  • The FDP - data, facts, background . Seewald, Stuttgart 1972, ISBN 3-512-00249-8 .
  • Balance from a distance. Is parliamentarianism in crisis? State and Economic Policy Society, Hamburg 1981, ISBN 3-88527-044-7 .
  • The goddamn conscience. Witness from 1921–1945 . Herbig, Munich 1982, 4th edition 1999, ISBN 3-7766-2121-4 .
  • The new freedom. Witness from 1945–1961 . Herbig, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-404-65072-7 .
  • From turn to turn. Witness from 1962–1982 . Herbig, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-404-61132-2 .
  • Annaberg and the German-Polish relationship . Federation of Expellees, United Landsmannschaften and Landesverbände, Bonn 1991, ISBN 3-925103-48-1 , 2nd edition, Bonn 1994.


  • Walter Henkels : 99 Bonn heads , reviewed and supplemented edition, Fischer-Bücherei, Frankfurt am Main 1965, p. 170ff.
  • Hans-Heinrich Jansen: Erich Mende (1916–1998) . In: Torsten Oppelland (ed.): Deutsche Politiker 1949–1969 , Vol. 2, Primus, Darmstadt 1999, pp. 132–142, ISBN 3-89678-120-0 .
  • Reinhard Schiffers (edit.): FDP federal board. The Liberals chaired by Erich Mende. Meeting minutes 1960–1967 , Droste, Düsseldorf 1993, ISBN 978-3-7700-5175-5 .

Web links

Commons : Erich Mende  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Jörn Echternkamp: Soldiers in the post-war. Historical conflicts of interpretation and West German democratization 1945-1955 . In: Center for military history and social sciences of the Bundeswehr (ed.): Contributions to military history . tape 76 . De Gruyter Oldenbourg, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-11-035093-7 , pp. 179 f . “[For the state reception of the Turkish President, the German Federal President Heuss ordered that the Bundeswehr soldiers put on their medals. Thereupon] the General Inspector of the Bundeswehr, Adolf Heusinger, warned that the politicians should also act according to the Order Act passed a few months earlier. If you follow Mendes memoirs, Heuss therefore asked the Vice Chancellor, 'You have to wear your Kreuzle with your tailcoat in Brühl'. Heuss had again argued that military performance was not diminished by the political system under which it was provided; The decisive factor is that the soldier fought in good faith and with clean hands within the framework of international law and the Hague order of war. Mende made it clear that he did not want to buy the new copy based on the Schinkel model from 1813 ("Medals are awarded - not bought in the store!"), Whereupon Heuss gave the head of the presidential office the order to obtain a new knight's cross for Mende. "
  2. ^ Felix Bohr: The war crimes lobby: Federal German help for Nazi perpetrators imprisoned abroad . First edition. Suhrkamp Verlag , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-518-42840-5 , pp. 111 ( full text in Google Book Search).
  3. Photo of the tombstone.
  4. Mende literally: “In my native Silesia there were hardly any liberals. The center was always very strong. I also leaned more in that direction. Franz Meyers , whom I knew well, wanted to get me a job with the CDU in Cologne. But then Adenauer , Cologne's Lord Mayor, was deposed by the British. I was supposed to be the organizer of the CDU in Düsseldorf. But before it came to that, a comrade in the war put me in touch with Middelhauve . It was pure coincidence that in February 1946 I was with the FDP and not the CDU. That wasn't a belief. That was, if you will, a bit of opportunism ”. Quoted from: Christof Brauers: The FDP in Hamburg 1945 to 1953 . Munich 2007.
  5. See Erich Mende: The new freedom . Munich 1984, p. 366 ff.
  6. thalidomide AG50. ( Memento from October 19, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 150 kB) In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt , 2007, 104 (41), accessed August 18, 2013.
  7. a b Veit Scherzer : Knight's Cross bearer 1939–1945. The holders of the Iron Cross of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and armed forces allied with Germany according to the documents of the Federal Archives. 2nd Edition. Scherzers Militaer-Verlag, Ranis / Jena 2007, ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2 , p. 537.