Karl Carstens

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Karl Carstens (1973)
Signature of Karl Carstens

Karl Walter Claus Carstens (born December 14, 1914 in Bremen ; † May 30, 1992 in Meckenheim ) was a German politician ( CDU ). From 1976 to 1979 he was President of the German Bundestag and from 1979 to 1984 the fifth Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany .


Carstens was born at Fitgerstrasse 36 in the Bremen district of Schwachhausen , shortly after his father, Carl Emil Carstens (1877-1914), senior teacher and teacher at the commercial school in Bremen (upper secondary school), fell in France . He lived with his mother Gertrud Carstens, nee. Clausen (1880–1963) in the row house Busestr. No. 67. His godmother was the Bremen child painter Agnes Sander-Plump .

After graduating from the old grammar school in Bremen in 1933 , Carstens studied law in Frankfurt am Main , Greifswald , Dijon , Munich , Königsberg and Hamburg , completing the first state examination in 1936 and the second state examination in 1939 . In 1938 he completed his doctorate as Dr. jur. from. He became a trainee lawyer at the Bremen Regional Court . After the study-related provisions from the military service, he made 1938 a military exercise in anti-aircraft regiment 26. From 1939 to 1945 he participated as a soldier in the anti-aircraft artillery at the World War II in part. He was trained as a flight detector in Flak Department 407. After the second state examination, he turned down a judge's position . In 1940 he became a non-commissioned officer , in 1941 a sergeant in the reserve and in 1942 a lieutenant and orderly officer on the staff of Flak Department 262 of the Air Force . He worked at the Flak Artillery School III in Berlin-Heiligensee .

As Secretary of State in 1963 in conversation with US President Kennedy
Grave in the Riensberg cemetery

After the war he was in Bremen as a lawyer admitted and began working at the law firm Ahlers & Vogel . From June 1945 to 1947 he also worked wholly or temporarily for mayor and justice senator Theodor Spitta and was also involved in drawing up the Bremen constitution . In 1948 Carstens began studying at Yale University in New Haven , which he completed in 1949 with a Masters of Laws (LL.M.) degree.

From 1949 to 1954 he was legal advisor to the Bremen Senate and agent for Bremen at the federal government . From 1950 he had a teaching post at the University of Cologne , where he completed his habilitation in 1952 . In 1954 he joined the Foreign Service of the Federal Republic of Germany . Until 1955 he was permanent representative of the Federal Republic of Germany at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and then at the Foreign Office in Bonn, where he was promoted to deputy to the Federal Foreign Minister as an expert on European issues and in 1958 took over the management of the "West I Europe" department. 1960 he was appointed to Professor of heads of state and international law at the University of Cologne. From 1970 to 1972 he headed the research institute of the German Society for Foreign Policy in Bonn.

His remains were buried in the Riensberg cemetery in Bremen (grave number U 612) ( → Lage ). His wife Veronica Carstens later found her final resting place there.


Karl and Veronica Carstens, 1949

Carstens had Veronica Prior in on December 23, 1944 Flak - barracks in Berlin-Schulzendorf married. She later became a specialist in internal medicine , but preferred to use homeopathic and naturopathic procedures and practiced in Meckenheim near Bonn, where the Carstens couple had lived since 1973. The marriage remained childless. The couple founded the Karl and Veronica Carstens Foundation in 1982 with the aim of promoting naturopathy and homeopathy. Karl and Veronica Carstens were Protestants and were involved in the local church community .


Party memberships

In the summer semester of 1933, Carstens began his law studies at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt. The Nazi rulers intended to convert this university into a National Socialist “model university”. On May 1, 1933, the National Socialist Ernst Krieck took over its leadership as "Führer". The NS student organizations demanded that the students of the first semester live in "comradeship houses" or in corporation homes that are impeccable from the NS standpoint. Carstens decided on a "comradeship house" and from now on had to take part in the SA service . In 1936, after denunciation , Carstens had been withdrawn from the state school authorities in Bremen. Following a request from the President of the Bremen Regional Court under threat of non-admission to the assessor examination in 1937, Carstens applied for membership in the NSDAP . He delayed the submission of the necessary documents, so that the application was only approved after the outbreak of war; At a time when Carstens was already a soldier and therefore could not be an active party member according to the Defense Act. Accordingly, the 1st Spruchkammer Bremen decided in the context of Carstens' denazification proceedings on June 3, 1948 that “practical membership in the NSDAP never existed” and that he “actively resisted the Nazi tyranny according to the measure of his strength”.

Since 1955 he was a member of the CDU .


Carstens speaks as Federal President on June 28, 1982 for the Federal Intelligence Service

From 1972 to 1979 he was a member of the German Bundestag . From May 1973 to October 1976 he was chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group and leader of the opposition . After the federal election in 1976 , Carstens was elected President of the German Bundestag on December 14, 1976 .

Carstens entered the Bundestag in 1972 through the Schleswig-Holstein state list and in 1976 as a directly elected member of the Ostholstein constituency .

Public offices

Karl Carstens with his dog Ben in the park of Villa Hammerschmidt (1982)
Karl Carstens at the event "25 Years of the Federal Office for Civil Protection " (1983)

From July 1960 to December 1966 he was State Secretary in the Foreign Office, during the time of the Grand Coalition he was State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Defense from December 1966 to 1968 . From 1968 to 1969 he was State Secretary in charge of the Federal Chancellery under Federal Chancellor Kiesinger . From December 1976 to May 1979 he was President of the Bundestag .

In the election of the German Federal President in 1979 , the Federal Assembly elected him on May 23, 1979 as the 5th Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany. Carstens' candidacy had previously been criticized for his previous membership in the NSDAP.

He replaced Walter Scheel as Federal President. During his tenure, Carstens took a stand against the peace movement's demands for unilateral disarmament and, in particular, refused to refer to the Sermon on the Mount .

In 1983 he published the anthology of German poems . A first print run was crushed due to many editorial errors.

The wandering Federal President Karl Carstens

Because of his fondness for hiking, Carstens was known as the “hiking president” during his tenure. He used these hikes to meet many people, from whom he let himself be accompanied for parts and with whom he stopped along the way. For reasons of age, he decided not to run for a second term and left office on June 30, 1984.

State visits

year month States
1980 April May IrelandIreland Ireland
May Yugoslavia Socialist Federal RepublicYugoslavia Yugoslavia
July PortugalPortugal Portugal
1981 January AustriaAustria Austria
March IndiaIndia India
July United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
September October Spain 1977Spain Spain
October BelgiumBelgium Belgium ( EC and NATO ), Egypt , RomaniaEgypt 1972Egypt Romania 1965Romania 
1982 February GreeceGreece Greece
April BrazilBrazil Brazil , JamaicaJamaicaJamaica 
May DenmarkDenmark Denmark
June Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia Saudi Arabia
August SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland
October China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China , Italy , Vatican CityItalyItaly Vatican cityVatican 
November Soviet UnionSoviet Union Soviet Union
1983 January FranceFrance France ( Council of Europe )
September Yugoslavia Socialist Federal RepublicYugoslavia Yugoslavia
October United StatesUnited States United States , FranceFranceFrance 
November Ivory CoastIvory Coast Ivory Coast , NigerNigerNiger 
1984 February March IndonesiaIndonesia Indonesia , ThailandThailandThailand 


The SPD accused Carstens of giving false testimony before the committee on the Guillaume espionage affair in 1974, stating that during his time as an overseer for the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) at the end of the 1960s, he knew nothing about the BND's links to the arms trade. Later, files signed by Carstens emerged to prove such connections. One court saw significant evidence of a false testimony.

In 2020, declassified documents were evaluated that indicate that Carstens, while working in the Foreign Office, was aware that the Indonesian military had massacred hundreds of thousands of civilians in the bloody coup of 1965 , while at the same time a request from the generals for funding to continue the "anti-communist" Purge "was discussed. A little later, Carstens received a contact from the military at the Foreign Office. After all, he is said to have made special funds available through the Federal Intelligence Service to support the putschists by providing weapons assistance.

In 1974 the writer Heinrich Böll published his short story Die Lost Ehre der Katharina Blum , which earned him severe criticism from the conservative side because of alleged sympathy for RAF terrorism. Carstens also expressed himself, however obviously ignorant of the essential facts and the content of the book: “I call on the whole population to distance themselves from the terrorist activity , especially the poet Heinrich Böll, who a few months ago under the pseudonym Katharina Blüm [ sic ] wrote a book that justifies violence. ”This exposed Carsten to numerous mocking attacks; Der Spiegel later even quoted the sentence in its obituary . At Böll's request, the graphic artist and political activist Klaus Staeck designed a poster on which Carstens was riding a cow, with the heading “Professor Carstens rides for Germany” and the full quote.

In 1976, Carstens was instrumental in implementing the controversial so-called internal consensus . The internal consensus was passed in the Bundestag on May 6, 1976 and made it possible for homeopathic preparations to be approved as medicinal products, even if there is no scientific evidence of their effectiveness. As an internist, Carsten's wife Veronika preferred homeopathic and naturopathic methods.

Honors (excerpt)

Street sign in the former government district in Bonn


  • The bona fide acquisition of liens on property rights. Dissertation, 1938.
  • Basic Concepts of the American Constitution and Its Implementation. Habilitation, 1952/54.
  • Council of Europe law , 1956
  • Political leadership - experiences in the service of the federal government. 1971.
  • Bundestag speeches and contemporary documents. Bonn 1977.
  • Speeches and interviews. 4 volumes, Bonn 1979–1983.
  • German poems. (Ed.) 1983.
  • Memories and experiences. 1993.


  • Walter Henkels : 99 Bonn heads , revised and supplemented edition, Fischer-Bücherei, Frankfurt am Main 1965, pp. 60f.
  • Tim Szatkowski: Karl Carstens. A political biography. Böhlau-Verlag, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-412-20013-8 .
  • Daniel Lenski: From Heuss to Carstens. The understanding of office of the first five Federal Presidents with special consideration of their constitutional competences. EKF, Leipzig / Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-933816-41-2 .

Web links

Commons : Karl Carstens  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl Carstens, History of the CDU, Konrad Adenauer Foundation . In: Konrad Adenauer Foundation . ( kas.de [accessed on February 22, 2017]).
  2. Theodor Spitta: New beginning out of ruins . Diary entries, see pages 99, 117, 123, 153, 171, 177, 180, 185, 232, 239, 275, 321, 340, 356, 358, 398, 430, 439, 441, 443, 446, 476, 447 , 481, 490, 493, 496, 512
  3. bild.de December 12, 2014
  4. a b c d Sebastian Balzter: Homeopathy: The very large globule coalition . September 24, 2019, ISSN  0174-4909 ( faz.net [accessed November 8, 2019]).
  5. bundespraesident.de: Karl Carstens .
  6. ^ The president from Meckenheim: Veronica and Karl Carstens lived in Meckenheim for 19 years. In: Bonner Generalanzeiger , June 2, 2017 [1]
  7. Tim Szatkowski: Karl Carstens - A political biography. 2007, Böhlau Verlag Cologne, Weimar, Vienna.
  8. Tim Szatkowski: Karl Carstens - A political biography. 2007, Böhlau Verlag Cologne, Weimar, Vienna.
  9. 2nd Defense Act of May 21, 1935 in: Reichsgesetzblatt. Part I. Issued in Berlin on May 22, 1935 (No. 52). - quoted by Tim Szatkowski.
  10. Tim Szatkowski: Karl Carstens - A political biography. 2007, Böhlau Verlag Cologne, Weimar, Vienna.
  11. Gentle Crusade . In: Der Spiegel . No. 18 , 1981 ( online ).
  12. Finest inventory . In: Der Spiegel . No. 23 , 1983 ( online ).
  13. Jonas Mueller-Töwe: The Federal President and the Putschists on t-online.de, July 13, 2020.
  14. a b Klaus Staeck: He's missing! In: Berliner Zeitung , July 22, 2010
  15. Died: Karl Carstens . In: Der Spiegel . No. 24 , 1992 ( online ).
  16. a b List of all decorations awarded by the Federal President for services to the Republic of Austria from 1952 (PDF; 6.9 MB)
  17. List of all decorations awarded by the Federal President for services to the Republic of Austria from 1952 (PDF; 6.9 MB).
  18. ^ Herbert Black Forest : The Great Bremen Lexicon . 2nd, updated, revised and expanded edition. Edition Temmen, Bremen 2003, ISBN 3-86108-693-X .
  19. ^ Deutscher Wanderverband (Ed.): "125 years of hiking and more", Michael Imhof Verlag, Petersberg, 2008, ISBN 978-3-86568-221-5 , p. 171