Eugen Gerstenmaier

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Eugen Gerstenmaier, 1960

Eugen Karl Albrecht Gerstenmaier (born August 25, 1906 in Kirchheim unter Teck , † March 13, 1986 in Oberwinter near Remagen ) was a German Protestant theologian and politician ( CDU ). As a member of the Kreisau Circle , he was privy to plans to assassinate Adolf Hitler during the National Socialist era and was arrested on July 20, 1944. In 1945 he organized the EKD's relief organization , which he headed until 1951. In 1949 he became a member of the Bundestag for the CDU. Gerstenmaier was President of the Bundestag from 1954 to 1969 . His tenure of 14 years, 2 months and 15 days is the longest to date.


After secondary school and a few years as a commercial clerk , Gerstenmaier made up his Abitur and from 1930 studied philosophy , German and Protestant theology at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen , the University of Rostock and in Zurich . His most important teacher was the conservative Lutheran theologian Friedrich Brunstäd in Rostock, with whom he received his doctorate. This National Protestant was a member of the German National People's Party until 1930 and resigned from it when it approached the NSDAP .

Positions in the church struggle

In the emerging church struggle , Gerstenmaier publicly stood up for Friedrich von Bodelschwingh in the summer of 1933 as student spokesman for the Rostock Theological Faculty , whom the church leaders of the German Evangelical Church (DEK) had appointed Reich Bishop . In 1934 he initiated a protest note from the Rostock theology students against the election of Ludwig Müller, favored by Hitler and the German Christians (DC), as Reich Bishop in October 1933 . He was then briefly arrested. Smaller clashes with local representatives of the NS student union were put on record. From late summer 1933, Gerstenmaier contacted Martin Niemöller and worked with him in the Pastors' Emergency Association, an initiative against state encroachments on the church and to preserve the freedom of preaching.

In 1935 Gerstenmaier received his doctorate in Rostock with a dissertation ( creation and revelation ) on the first article of the creed . In 1936, on the advice of his doctoral supervisor, he became a scientific assistant in the Church External Office of the DEK, headed by Theodor Heckel . Here he expanded his dissertation on the post-doctoral thesis on the subject of The Church and Creation , which he published as a book in 1938. In it he wrote, among other things:

“The legality of the state's claim ends where the state no longer protects its own community with this claim, but endangers or violates it. This happens in every case where he is no longer determined and bound by the law of God in the national law that he administers, where in truth he no longer respects the God-relatedness and directness of his citizens. "

With this position critical of the state, Gerstenmaier found himself close to the positions of some Protestant theologians of the Confessing Church . However, he did not share the theological position of the more radical “Dahlem” wing of the Confessing Church, which was shaped by the Christological teaching of Karl Barth , but the political demand for freedom of preaching for the church and the rejection of the Aryan paragraph . His theological position was close to that of his Zurich teacher Emil Brunner , with whom he had studied in the summer of 1934. His work in the Church Foreign Office became a burden to him for some members of the Confessing Church and some members of the opposition due to the proximity of the Foreign Office to the regime and its state-loyal church foreign policy. The head of the Foreign Office, Bishop Heckel, had, for example, made disparaging remarks about Dietrich Bonhoeffer . On the other hand, Gerstenmaier was later able to use the foreign travel opportunities offered by the office in the service of the resistance. In 1942 he was permanently employed as consistorial advisor in the Foreign Office.

It was not just his arrest as a student that made further academic career difficult for Gerstenmaier. Although he received his habilitation in 1937, he did not receive a state teaching permit ( venia legendi ). In an assessment by representatives of the regime, which went back to his student days in Rostock, it says: "It has ... clearly shown that G. is a fanatical supporter of the Confessional Church, who from this supporters clearly opposed the National Socialist worldview. ... Lic. Habil. Gerstenmaier is an opponent of National Socialism as a worldview because of his literal church ties. "The Reichsstudentenbund, Berlin Office, expressed a similar opinion:" I think Gerstenmaier is characteristically an impeccable man, but who is a fighter for political goals that are absolutely opposed to the National Socialist movement . "

Later, in a letter from Reinhard Heydrich as head of the Security Police and SD from April 18, 1941 to the Foreign Office, it was stated: “As later became known, Dr. Gerstenmaier has been a consultant for questions of world Protestantism in the Church Foreign Office for several years and is close to the confessional front. ”The increasing distrust of the authorities extended not only to Gerstenmaier, but also to the Church Foreign Office and Heckel. In a letter from Heydrich to Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop on April 2, 1942, it says: “On this occasion [a trip to the Balkans with an official passport from the Foreign Office ], Dr. Gerstenmaier, the ecumenical patriarch or the Vatican to persuade the British government for the delivery of grain from Egyptian ports to Greece [for the starving population]. ... The consequence of this policy will be, among other things, that German Protestantism, whose anti-Volkish and anti-National Socialist stance has been proven again and again during the war, will receive new impetus with the help of foreign countries and will therefore confront National Socialism with considerably greater demands. In my opinion, Bishop Heckel does not offer the guarantee in a personal way to properly represent political interests abroad. ”Ribbentrop then gave instructions that the Foreign Office no longer had any relations with Heckel or Gerstenmaier.

Kreisau circle

In 1939 Gerstenmaier was obliged to work part-time in the cultural and political department of the Foreign Office. There he met his later friends from the Kreisau district , Hans Bernd von Haeften and Adam von Trott zu Solz . His service provided Gerstenmaier with further contacts to state officials who were increasingly critical of Hitler's policy. As early as June 1940 he and Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg planned an assassination attempt on Hitler in Paris, which had to be canceled.

In 1942 Helmuth James Graf von Moltke invited him to his resistance group, the Kreisau Circle. At the time, the latter was aiming for a putsch and regime change, but still refused an attempt to assassinate Hitler. Gerstenmaier was one of the few who pleaded for an assassination attempt on Hitler. As a member of this group, Gerstenmaier visited Sweden in the summer of 1942, met Bishop Yngve Torgny Brilioth and informed him about the German resistance plans. Gerstenmaier arranged meetings in Berlin in 1942 and 1943 between Moltke and the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Regional Church of Württemberg, Theophil Wurm , as well as the senior government councilor Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg , who also belonged to the Kreisau Circle. In this way, Wurm came into contact with leading figures of the resistance movement beyond the church struggle and in January 1944 in Stuttgart also became aware of a proclamation that Moltke wanted to publish after a successful putsch.

On July 20, 1944, Gerstenmaier stayed "with a pistol and pocket Bible" in the Berlin Bendler Block to support the attempted coup after the assassination attempt on Hitler . There he was arrested and sentenced by the People's Court on January 11, 1945 as one of the few resistance fighters accused of failing to report his knowledge of the resistance, not to death, but to seven years in prison under the chairmanship of the President of the People's Court, Roland Freisler , although the representative of the Oberreichsanwaltes had applied for the death penalty at the People's Court (prosecutor). In the oral justification of the judgment, which was mild by Freisler's standards, he stated that Gerstenmaier was "unworldly and possibly still to be won back for the community". The Deputy Reich Press Chief Helmut Sündermann and his wife are said to have campaigned for Gerstenmaier at Freisler's at the request of Gerstenmaier's sister Hanna. On April 14, 1945, the American troops freed Gerstenmaier from Bayreuth prison before the National Socialists could shoot the political prisoners held there.

post war period

In prison, Gerstenmaier had worked out the draft for an all-German aid organization for the post-war period. At the first meeting of the Protestant church leaders in Treysa (August 29th to 31st, 1945), he was appointed head of the Evangelical Relief Organization, which he held until September 30th, 1951. Gerstenmaier received the office, although he was sharply attacked in an article by Karl Barth , who did not know him. The occasion was an interview given to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung immediately after the prison was liberated. In it, Gerstenmaier pointed out that he had “ participated in the founding and struggle of the Confessing Church in close association with Pastor Martin Niemöller ”. Barth knew nothing about Gerstenmaier's activity in the church struggle and resistance.

The Evangelical Relief Organization was the largest all-German aid organization. In addition to providing humanitarian aid such as child feeding and refugee aid, it also helped people to help themselves and thus initiated economic reconstruction even before the Marshall Plan, by processing donated raw materials in Germany instead of finished goods from abroad. This created both jobs and added value in the country. The coupling of foreign aid and self-help resulted in an aid program of great efficiency. The resettlement of refugees in newly founded cities was also supported by the aid agency. The relief organization transformed an old ammunition store into the refugee town of Espelkamp with (then) 3000 inhabitants.

The Eugen Gerstenmaier settlement in Wolfach

In order to get to grips with the acute problem of taking in refugees in West Germany in the period after 1945, especially from what was then known as the “Soviet Occupation Zone” in the West, a new type of temporary dormitory was designed in 1953, which is different from a normal refugee camp u. a. differed by separate living units for each family. The initiative for this came from Eugen Gerstenmaier. The execution was under the care of Dr. Wagner, head of the settlement service of the Evangelical Relief Organization, and Prelate Wosnitzer, head of the Catholic settlement service within the German Caritas Association. Wolfach's mayor Arthur Martin (1911–1999) successfully tried to establish the planned test settlement in Wolfach, in which Gerstenmaier's idea was first implemented in Germany in 1953.

Politician in the Federal Republic

Gerstenmaier 1965
Federal party conference in 1971 in Düsseldorf

Gerstenmaier became a member of the CDU in 1949 and was a CDU member of the Bundestag for the constituency of Backnang from 1949 to 1969 . In 1949 Adenauer offered him the Ministry of Expellees. Since he was still the head of the relief organization at the time, he suggested Hans Lukaschek from the Kreisau circle to Adenauer instead , who also became a minister. From 1949 to 1953 he was deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag and then its chairman until December 17, 1954. From 1956 to 1966 he was deputy federal chairman of the CDU. Gerstenmaier supported Adenauer's policy of ties to the West and rearmament, which was unpopular at the time .

In 1950, in his first German speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, he declared that the unification of Europe was a historical necessity. The majority of Germans do not want rearmament, they detest war, but "we do not expect others to defend us without our willingness to take part in this defense on the basis of equality."

The rearmament met with rejection in large parts of the EKD, also because it seemed to run towards a reunification of Germany. Gerstenmaier affirmed the state unity of Germany. For security reasons, like Adenauer, he opposed neutralization, but advocated a more extensive dialogue with the Soviet Union, which Adenauer was not yet ready for. On December 3, 1953, Gerstenmaier had suggested to Adenauer in a letter as a future course of action “to initiate relations with the government of the Soviet Union with the aim of: 1. To bring about four-power discussions on the restoration of German unity and to bring them to a positive result. 2. To contribute to the pacification and normalization of relations between Germany, the Soviet Union and the other peoples of Europe, with whom diplomatic relations have not yet been established. "

In social policy, Gerstenmaier turned against the "expansion of the welfare state to a favoring state" and against an overstretching of the welfare state, as in his Stuttgart and Kiel party congress speeches of 1956 and 1958. He shared Ludwig Erhard's market-liberal position and warned against this position being softened the subsidy economy, even when Erhard was unable to maintain these principles in his chancellorship.

Gerstenmaier was a member of the electoral committee of the two Union parties, when he proposed Adenauer as the new Federal President on April 7, 1959 , which he accepted. However, a few weeks later, Adenauer withdrew his candidacy.

Position on nuclear weapons

With the rearmament was the accession to NATO , with this the involvement of the Bundeswehr in nuclear defense strategies. The USA began to station tactical nuclear weapons on West German soil since 1954, and the Bundeswehr was also to be equipped with them. The contradiction of the Göttingen appeal signed by 18 scientists triggered an extra-parliamentary protest movement against nuclear weapons. “ Fight against atomic death ” was supported by many Christians, initially also by social democrats and trade unions.

Gerstenmaier defended nuclear weapons as a speaker for the CDU in the first major parliamentary debate on this subject on May 10, 1957. He saw the option of atomic weapons as a bargaining chip and wanted a say in strategy and the use of weapons in an emergency. He continued: To be human means to grasp one's calling to freedom. To do this, one must seize the given opportunities for freedom. These currently consist in uniting the free world. This requires a determination to resist every attacker, if necessary by all means. This is not a threat, but an indispensable deterrent for the time being. Gerstenmaier responded to the interjection of an SPD MP who quoted from the Ten Commandments “You shouldn't kill!”: “Yes, you know, no murder should happen. Today the commandment is 'You shall not kill': all strength therefore those who are willing to fall into the arms of the murderer so that he cannot lead the thrust. ”At the same time, Gerstenmaier spoke of the need for“ general relaxation , a Russia policy of compromise and reconciliation "and demanded:" Disarmament across the board and with the most radical possible consequences! But also in freedom, therefore no one-sided disarmament, no renunciation without a clear, tangible consideration from the other side. "

Reunification and peace treaty

As early as 1958 he proposed "to lead the Soviet Union back to the German question by way of a peace treaty ". However, the negotiations on this would also have raised the demand for the lost eastern territories, and this request should have been raised by the Americans, which they, however, rejected.

On June 30, 1961, Gerstenmaier closed the session of the Bundestag with the proposal to bring about an agreement between the Western powers and the Soviet Union on the way in which a peace treaty could come about. The military and political status of Germany as a whole, the borderline and the right to self-determination for the entire German people should be negotiated. In doing so, he contradicted Adenauer's policy, which called for free elections in the GDR as a non-debatable precondition for such negotiations and rejected negotiations without prior free elections in the GDR. Gerstenmaier thus approached the ideas widespread in the SPD opposition, but Adenauer brought him back on his line with a joint communiqué by the CDU party executive.

President of the Bundestag

Eugen Gerstenmaier (left) in conversation with Haya de la Torre (1961)

After the sudden death of Hermann Ehlers , Gerstenmaier succeeded him as President of the Bundestag on November 16, 1954 at the suggestion of Konrad Adenauer . In his election, he had to prevail - a process that was unique in the Bundestag - against an opposing candidate from his own parliamentary group: Ernst Lemmer , whom the FDP MP Hans Reif had proposed. Gerstenmaier was close to the church for many members of the government coalition and only won in the third ballot with a difference of 14 votes. He then held office until 1969 and shaped this office during this time. Innovations that he introduced included the current hour for MPs and the procedure for the major inquiry .

From 1957 to 1959 Gerstenmaier was also chairman of the “Budget” sub-commission of the Bundestag executive committee. In the CDU he made a name for himself as deputy federal chairman and at times came into opposition to Adenauer, especially in his final phase as Federal Chancellor. At the end of Erhard's chancellorship in 1966, he himself was under discussion as a candidate for chancellor with the support of Franz Josef Strauss . However, he withdrew his candidacy for the parliamentary group vote after the CSU had declared that it would vote for Kurt Georg Kiesinger as a whole. During the formation of the government, Kiesinger offered him the Foreign Ministry. When Herbert Wehner demanded this for Willy Brandt , who originally wanted to limit himself to the Ministry of Science, Gerstenmaier waived.

" Langer Eugen " - The high-rise building in Bonn (today the center of the UN campus ) (2007)

As President of the Bundestag, Gerstenmaier had given special support to the construction of the parliament building in Bonn . That is why the vernacular gave this building the name " Langer Eugen " in an ironic allusion to Gerstenmaier's small body size . His commitment to appropriate working and conference conditions for the Bundestag and its members in Bonn met with little understanding from the public. He was well supported here in internal discussions, “but when it came down to providing the necessary budget and representing it to the public, he was mostly alone”. Nevertheless, Gerstenmaier managed to enforce the measures. In the 1950s, he had already campaigned to secure the structure of the Reichstag building in Berlin. In the 1960s, the Reichstag was then prepared for parliamentary group meetings and parliamentary activities.

On January 31, 1969, Gerstenmaier resigned as President of the Bundestag after he had come under public criticism for claiming reparations. Admittedly, he was legally entitled to additional salaries from a university teaching position, which the National Socialists had denied him. But the amount of the sum (281,107 DM) caused offense. Accusations were also made in public that he had influenced the legislation of the seventh amendment of the Reparation Act of 1965 in his favor, which had been supplemented with the phrase “persons who were not granted the license to teach after completing their habilitation”. This led to severe criticism in the press. However, direct involvement in the amendment called for by the Federal Constitutional Court could not be proven. In the opinion of legal experts, his application from 1964 would have had a good chance of success without the amendment. Gerstenmaier is said to have not kept the amount he received as reparation, but donated it to relief funds for the survivors of the victims of July 20 and other needy people. Kai-Uwe von Hassel was elected to succeed him as President of the Bundestag .

Before his resignation in 1969, Gerstenmaier had called the Federal Assembly back to Berlin, as he had otherwise regularly done, where meetings of federal bodies were not permitted in the GDR's view because of the four-power status. This passed a Stasi dossier to the West German media, which was supposed to prove that Gerstenmaier was not one of the resistanceists in the Third Reich. He also did not qualify as a professor and therefore wrongly applied for compensation. In addition, she published a “documentary report ” in 1969 (with reference to a forged SD card) under the title: From SD-Agent P 38/546 to President of the Bundestag. The career of Eugen Gerstenmaier . The allegations from the GDR were refuted in 1974 by investigations by the Bonn public prosecutor and, after the fall of the Wall, by viewing the Stasi files.

Another point of criticism was a piece of land that he had acquired from the city of Stuttgart in 1959 for 50,000 marks and which he wanted to sell back to the city in 1967 with a six-figure profit.

After his resignation, Gerstenmaier withdrew from politics. He submitted his memoirs in 1981 and died in 1986.

See also

Honorary positions

In 1980, Gerstenmaier was a member of the arbitration committee for the CDU alongside Hermann Kunst (chairman), Alex Möller (SPD), Rudolf Hanauer (CSU) and Bernhard Leverenz (FDP) to monitor compliance with the election campaign agreement in the federal election campaign.

From 1977 until his death he was chairman of the Association of Former Members of the German Bundestag e. V. (from 1984: Association of former members of the German Bundestag and the European Parliament e.V.)



  • The Church Conspiratorial. In: We survived. Ed. Eric Boehm. New Haven 1949, pp. 172-191.
  • Speeches and essays. Volume 1, Stuttgart 1956.
  • Speeches and essays. Volume 2, Stuttgart 1962.
  • The third Bundestag. On the electoral law and the shape of the future parliament. In: The Voter , born 1955, issue 11, pp. 495–497.
  • Do we need a better Bundestag? In: Der Spiegel . No. 38 , 1964, pp. 28–43 ( online - Spiegel interview with the President of the German Bundestag, Dr. Eugen Gerstenmaier).
  • Public opinion and parliamentary decision. In: Karl Dietrich Bracher u. a .: Modern democracy and its rights. Festschrift for Gerhard Leibholz for his 65th birthday. Tübingen 1966, pp. 123-134.
  • Future expectations of democracy. In: Bitburger Talks. Yearbook 1972/73, Trier 1974, pp. 41–50.
  • Decision of conscience in parliament. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt , year 1980, issue 30, pp. 1855-1858.
  • New nationalism? Stuttgart 1965.
  • Germans and Jews. (Speech at the World Jewish Congress), Frankfurt / Main 1967, pp. 96–105.
  • Konrad Adenauer, honor and commemoration. Stuttgart 1967.
  • There is a time for conflict and peace. A life story. Frankfurt am Main 1981.
  • July 20th in the Bendlerblock. In: There is a time for conflict and peace. Reprinted in: Resistance in Germany 1933-1945. A historical reader. Edited by Peter Steinbach and Johannes Tuchel, Munich: Beck, 1997, pp. 345–349 (report by Eugen Gerstenmaier about his personal experiences and impressions on July 20, 1944 in the Bendlerblock in Berlin, including the last word by Stauffenberg ).


Web links

Commons : Eugen Gerstenmaier  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See Eugen Gerstenmaier's first and second matriculation in the Rostock matriculation portal
  2. Wolfgang Huber (Ed.): Positions and profiles in post-war Germany . P. 69 ff.
  3. Fabian von Schlabrendorff . Eugen Gerstenmaier in the Third Reich, A Documentation , Stuttgart 1965, p. 15
  4. Wolfgang Huber (Ed.): Positions and profiles in post-war Germany . P. 73
  5. Eberhard Bethge: Dietrich Bonhoeffer . P. 581
  6. ^ Joachim Fest : Coup, The long way to July 20 . Berlin 1994
  7. Henric L. Wuermeling, broadcast manuscript for the ARD television program Netzwerk from July 20, 1994 about Adam von Trott zu Solz with testimony from contemporary witnesses
  8. ^ Franz Möller : Eugen Gerstenmaier and the Federal Assembly in Berlin 1969 . In: Historisch-Politische Mitteilungen , Archive for Christian Democratic Politics, Volume 9, 2002, pp. 118–119
  9. Fabian von Schlabrendorff. Eugen Gerstenmaier in the Third Reich, A Documentation , Stuttgart 1965, p. 27
  10. Fabian von Schlabrendorff. Eugen Gerstenmaier in the Third Reich, A Documentation , Stuttgart 1965, pp. 28–30
  11. Eugen Gerstenmaier: There is a time for conflict and peace . Frankfurt 1981, p. 128
  12. ^ Peter Hoffmann: History of the German Resistance, 1933–1945 . McGill-Queen's Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0-7735-6640-8 , pp. 259 ( ).
  13. ^ Matthias Stickler:  Gerstenmaier, Eugen Karl Albrecht. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 19, Bautz, Nordhausen 2001, ISBN 3-88309-089-1 , Sp. 550-559.
  14. Joachim Scholtyseck: Lecture on Gerstenmaier's role in the resistance. In: FAZ , June 30, 2006, p. 12
  15. Hans-Adolf Jacobsen (Ed.): Opposition to Hitler and the coup d'état of July 20, 1944 . Stuttgart 1989
  16. Fabian von Schlabrendorff. Eugen Gerstenmaier in the Third Reich, A Documentation , Stuttgart 1965, pp. 35, 36
  17. a b Letter from York Christian Gerstenmaier to the FAZ , printed on July 8, 2006
  18. Eugen Gerstenmaier and the Evangelical Aid Organization. (PDF; 75.5 kB) (No longer available online.) In: Evangelische Medienzentrale Sachsen, pp. 3 and 4 , archived from the original on March 10, 2016 ; accessed on January 12, 2018 .
  19. Fabian von Schlabrendorff. Eugen Gerstenmaier in the Third Reich, A Documentation . Stuttgart 1965, pp. 44-48
  20. ^ Schrader, Frank: Structural developments in Wolfach in the 20th century. In: Die Ortenau 77 (1997), 653-657
  21. Eugen Gerstenmaier: There is a time for conflict and peace . Frankfurt / M. 1981, p. 422
  22. Helmut Gollwitzer : The Christians and the nuclear weapons . 6th edition. P. 11
  23. Eugen Gerstenmaier: Speeches and essays . Volume 2. Stuttgart 1962, pp. 301-341, 340
  24. ^ Peace treaty - with whom? In: Der Spiegel . No. 11 , 1958 ( online - SPIEGEL conversation with the President of the German Bundestag).
  25. ^ Peace treaty . In: Der Spiegel . No. 16 , 1958 ( online ).
  26. Bundestag: Current hour . In: Der Spiegel . No. 48 , 1964 ( online ).
  27. ^ Franz Möller : Members of the German Bundestag, records and memories . Volume 17. Oldenbourg, 2004, pp. 27-29
  28. The Twilight Time ...
  29. ^ "Gerstenmaier resigned from his office", in Schwäbische Zeitung of February 1, 1969, p. 1
  30. The case . In: Der Spiegel . No. 5 , 1969 ( online - Der Spiegel zu Lex Gerstenmaier ).
  31. ^ Hubertus Knabe : The discreet charm of the GDR, Stasi and Western media . Berlin 2001, pp. 250–269 (The Gerstenmaier Campaign)
  32. ^ Franz Möller : Eugen Gerstenmaier and the Federal Assembly in Berlin 1969 . In: Historisch-Politische Mitteilungen , Archive for Christian Democratic Politics, Volume 9, 2002, pp. 95–126
  33. Thaddäus Troll : Germany your Swabians . 9th edition. 1968
  34. List of all decorations awarded by the Federal President for services to the Republic of Austria from 1952 (PDF; 6.59 MB)
  35. ^ Eugen-Gerstenmaier-Platz in Berlin inaugurated. German Bundestag, 2010, accessed on September 2, 2018 .