Rainer Barzel

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Rainer Barzel as a young Federal Minister, 1962

Rainer Candidus Barzel (born June 20, 1924 in Braunsberg , East Prussia , † August 26, 2006 in Munich ) was a German politician ( CDU ).

From 1962 to 1963 he was Federal Minister for All-German Issues and from 1964 headed the CDU / CSU parliamentary group. From 1969 he was opposition leader in the Bundestag against Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt , from 1971 also chairman of the CDU federal party. In April 1972 Barzel almost became Federal Chancellor after Brandt's SPD-FDP coalition had lost members of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group. However , Barzel was missing two votes in the decisive vote of no confidence . It later emerged that members of parliament had been bribed by employees of the GDR State Security . There were also allegations, the parliamentary group leader of the SPD Herbert Wehner or herParliamentary director Karl Wienand bribed the MPs ( Steiner-Wienand affair ); however, this could not be proven.

After the CDU under Barzel's leadership had lost the federal election in November 1972, Helmut Kohl replaced him in 1973 as CDU chairman and Karl Carstens as parliamentary group chairman. When the CDU / CSU came back to power in 1982, Barzel was again Federal Minister for German domestic relations. From 1983 to 1984 he was the eighth President of the German Bundestag .


Barzel at a party conference in 1972 with his daughter Claudia

Barzel was born in Braunsberg in Warmia , the predominantly Catholic part of East Prussia , as the fifth of seven children of the senior teacher Candidus Barzel and his wife Maria. When he was a young student, his father was transferred to Berlin , where Barzel went to school. After spending a year at the Jesuit Canisius College in Berlin , he passed his secondary school diploma in 1941 at a humanistic grammar school . During school he was involved in the Catholic youth association Bund New Germany .

During the Second World War he was deployed from 1941 to 1945 as a soldier / observer in the rank of lieutenant in the Air Force in Flensburg , Trondheim , Tromsö and on the Black Sea with the sea ​​pilots . He took part in several evacuation flights from Sevastopol in 1944 and was able to save 40 German soldiers from death or captivity. In the last weeks of the war he was a teacher for aerial combat tactics at the naval school in Kiel , in 1944 he received the Golden Front Flugspange . From 1959 he was first lieutenant at sea in the reserve of the German Navy .

After the capitulation in May 1945, Barzel stayed in Rendsburg for a few days , as the British officer in charge of the city had announced that on a certain day all soldiers from Rendsburg would be released from captivity immediately. This gift from the occupying power stemmed from the fact that the British officer had been shot down over Rendsburg during the war and hidden there by brave citizens. Barzel and his fiancée Kriemhild Schumacher then took the train to Cologne to see their parents. It was also his father-in-law who encouraged him to study and gave him financial support.

Rainer Barzel studied law and economics at the University of Cologne from 1945 to 1949 . In 1949, the first state examination and its done Promotion for Doctor 's rights in the legal philosopher Ernst von Hippel with the work The constitutional regulation of fundamental rights and fundamental duties of man .

Common grave of Rainer Barzel and his first wife Kriemhild in the central cemetery in Bonn-Bad Godesberg

Rainer Barzel was married three times: with his first wife Kriemhild, whom he met in Berlin in 1940 and married in 1948, he had a daughter Claudia, who was born in 1949 and who committed suicide in 1977. Kriemhild Barzel died in Munich in 1980 after a long illness of leukemia in his arms. Three years later, Barzel married the later chairwoman of Welthungerhilfe , Helga Henselder-Barzel , who died on December 15, 1995 in a car accident near Solms ( Hesse ). In 1997 Rainer Barzel married the actress Ute Cremer , with whom he lived in Munich until the end.

Rainer Barzel died on August 26, 2006 after a long and serious illness in Munich. He was dependent on a wheelchair between January and May 2006 after inpatient hospital treatment.

On September 5, 2006, the pontifical request for Rainer Barzel took place in Bonn Minster , the sermon was delivered by Cardinal Karl Lehmann . On September 22, 2006, he was honored with an act of mourning in the plenary hall of the German Bundestag in Berlin. His successor in the office of President of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert , his old companion, political opponent and personal friend, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke .


In 1949 he entered the service of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia , where he was particularly sponsored by the center politician Carl Spiecker . He was initially active in the North Rhine-Westphalian Representation at the Economic Council of the Bizone in Frankfurt am Main and in 1953 became acting head of the Representation of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia at the federal government in Bonn . From 1952 to 1955 he took part in the negotiations on the mining authority in Luxembourg for North Rhine-Westphalia .

In 1955 he became an advisor and speechwriter to the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Karl Arnold (CDU). After Arnold was overthrown by the SPD , FDP and the center , he took a leave of absence in 1956 and became a full-time employee of the CDU. From 1973 he worked in a law firm.

After leaving politics, Barzel worked as a legal advisor, author and political advisor. Together with a Polish director, he made a film in 1987 about the re-encounter with his East Prussian homeland: “A visit, but not as a stranger”. As the author of his second film in 1989, he expressed his keen interest in peace in the Middle East and the city of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem, a city that concerns us".

Political party

Rainer Barzel 1971 in Düsseldorf

In Barzel's book "The Spiritual Foundations of the Parties" , written in 1947, there was clear sympathy for the re-establishment of the Center Party , but initially he remained non-party. In 1954, after the failure of the Center Party had become evident, he became a member of the CDU and soon afterwards a member of the federal and state boards of Westphalia-Lippe of this party. From 1956 he was an executive member of the presidium of the CDU North Rhine-Westphalia, which at that time was not a regional association, but a working group of the regional associations Westphalia-Lippe and Rhineland. In the CDU, Barzel was initially assigned to the left wing of the party as a follower of Karl Arnold's. After his death in 1958, however, he switched to a clearly anti-socialist course and founded the “ Save Freedom Committee ” with Franz Josef Strauss . As chairman of this committee, Barzel came under pressure after 450 public figures in the Federal Republic were portrayed as communists in a “ red book ”. After public criticism, which drew parallels with the activities of the American politician Joseph McCarthy , and several criminal complaints from those affected, Barzel distanced himself from this publication.

In 1960 Barzel was elected to the federal executive board of the CDU . There he tried in 1961 to force the establishment of a "large counter-union" against the DGB , for which he received no support. Other controversial initiatives followed, such as the reintroduction of the death penalty or bringing the state elections into line with the federal elections (the respective federal election result in the state should be decisive for the distribution of mandates in the state parliament). At the federal party congress in 1962, he called for the re-Catholicization of the CDU positions in a memorandum, which brought him criticism in particular from the North German CDU associations, but also from the Protestant areas of Baden-Württemberg . At the federal party congress in 1966, he failed with a campaign candidacy for the party chairmanship against Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard , but was elected first deputy federal chairman. When Erhard resigned from the office of party chairman a year later, it was not Barzel but the new Federal Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger who was elected as his successor.

Federal election campaign 1972

After the formation of the social-liberal coalition in 1969, Barzel gathered those forces in the CDU around him who took a pragmatic line towards the new government and thus moved away from his uncompromising, conservative stance. This put him in the twilight of his own party and in sharp contrast to the party chairman and former Federal Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who (together with the CSU under Franz Josef Strauss) followed a fundamentally oppositional course, particularly in terms of Eastern and German policy. In 1971 he was elected federal chairman of the CDU by a large majority as the successor to Kiesinger. His defeated opponent was the Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate , Helmut Kohl .

After the Brandt government took office, so many members of the SPD and FDP had switched to the Union parliamentary group by April 23, 1972 , including the former Federal Minister Erich Mende , that the CDU / CSU parliamentary group had a small absolute majority. Barzel therefore believed that he could replace Willy Brandt by means of a constructive vote of no confidence . But contrary to expectations, he lacked two votes for the necessary majority and three votes for his previous calculations for his election as Federal Chancellor . Later it became known that the GDR had bribed at least two MPs, Julius Steiner (CDU) and Leo Wagner (CSU), with 50,000 DM each.

At an event for the 25th anniversary of the Federal CDU, 1975 (center)

However, since the SPD / FDP coalition no longer had an effective majority in the Bundestag, Brandt put the vote of confidence in which, as agreed, the federal ministers abstained, so that the vote of confidence was answered in the negative and Federal President Gustav Heinemann asked the Bundestag at Brandt's request dissolved.

In the early federal election of November 1972 , Barzel was candidate for chancellor of the Union parties, but was defeated by the incumbent and popular Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt. For the first time in its history, the SPD won more votes than the CDU / CSU. On the one hand, the defeat was due to the better party structure of the SPD, which was even supported by voluntary election campaign groups, some of which were supported by public figures. On the other hand, Barzel, as a candidate for chancellor, did not succeed in breaking the FDP out of the coalition with the SPD, because with it he would have had the required majority in the Bundestag. At the same time, TV-shy Barzel did not manage to appear on television as often as the incumbent Chancellor and thus missed the opportunity to argue in front of a large audience and to become a popular figure just like Brandt.

Barzel resigned on May 9, 1973 from the office of CDU federal chairman. He was battered by the defeat of the Bundestag election, but gave the reason that the CDU parliamentary group did not support him in the vote on the accession of the Federal Republic and the GDR to the United Nations . His successor was Helmut Kohl, his rival candidate from 1971, who did not harmonize personally with Barzel and initially excluded him from the work of the highest party bodies.


From 1957 to 1987 he was a member of the German Bundestag . He initially joined the workers' group in the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, but left it again around 1959. From autumn 1963 he ran the business of the seriously ill chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group Heinrich von Brentano until he was elected chairman of the group himself after Brentano's death in December 1964. After the failure of Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard in 1966, Barzel tried to become chancellor himself, but was defeated in the party's preliminary decision, which was in favor of Kurt Georg Kiesinger. In the following grand coalition he played a key role together with the SPD parliamentary group leader, Helmut Schmidt .

The parliamentary group leader at the 1969 election congress

From 1965 to 1969 he was a member of the Bundestag's committee of stewards for the secret service branches ( BND , Verfassungsschutz -Apparat, MAD ). In 1968 he became a member of the 2nd parliamentary committee of inquiry for the coordination of the secret service branches of the Federal Republic of Germany.

During the time of the grand coalition, he was an advocate of majority voting . Although they found support from large parts of the SPD, they were unable to prevail in the coalition as a whole.

In particular after joining the opposition in 1969, Barzel built the parliamentary group into the CDU's power and decision-making center. Since the parliamentary group did not endorse Barzel's vote on May 8, 1973, to approve the government bill for the accession of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations , he resigned from his offices as party and parliamentary group chairman the following day.

From 1976 to 1979 he was chairman of the economic committee and from 1980 to 1982 chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the German Bundestag.

On October 1, 1982, he justified the motion of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group for a constructive vote of no confidence in the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

On March 29, 1983 he was elected President of the German Bundestag with 407 out of 509 votes . Barzel mastered this task confidently and fended off a tightening of the rules of procedure, which some demanded in view of the unfamiliar political and clothing style of the Greens who entered the Bundestag for the first time. “Nobody here has a better mandate than another,” he warned in his inaugural address. He also proved to be a stimulator and innovator. His commitment to parliamentary reform was very strong. For example, at Barzel's suggestion, the members of parliament debated the Bundestag's self-image for the first time. The six-hour debate is counted among the great moments of parliament. As President of the Bundestag, Barzel headed the budget commission of the Council of Elders and, on May 23, 1984, the Federal Assembly , which elected Richard von Weizsäcker as Federal President.

He resigned on October 25, 1984 on charges of involvement in the Flick affair . As was publicly known at the time on the basis of Flick's files, the Flick Group had Barzel's law firm between 1973 and 1982 a total of almost 1.7 million DM with the note “wg. Barzel ”paid. Even if no direct political influence could be proven (for example that he had cleared the way for Helmut Kohl within the CDU), he was morally discredited by the payments. Kohl himself, to whom, according to the records of Flick, had also transferred over half a million DM, did nothing to help the beleaguered party friend.

Rainer Barzel was elected directly to the Bundestag in the Bundestag elections from 1957 to 1976 in the Paderborn constituency. In 1980 and 1983 he entered the Bundestag via the North Rhine-Westphalia state list of the CDU.

Public offices

Rainer Barzel (right) with Ernst Lemmer , his predecessor in the office of Federal Minister for All-German Issues, on December 29, 1962 in front of the Glienicke Bridge .

On December 13, 1962, he was appointed to the federal government led by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer as Federal Minister for All-German Issues. During his tenure, he was the youngest minister in the Federal Cabinet. When changing to Chancellor Ludwig Erhard , the FDP claimed this ministry for its party chairman Erich Mende , so that Barzel left the federal government on October 11, 1963.

During the dispute over Ostpolitik on April 27, 1972, the attempt by the CDU / CSU parliamentary group to elect Rainer Barzel to replace Willy Brandt as Federal Chancellor by means of the first constructive vote of no confidence at federal level in the history of the Federal Republic failed . In the early federal election in 1972 that followed, Barzel was a candidate for chancellor from the CDU and CSU, but was unable to prevail over Willy Brandt. For the first time, the SPD provided the strongest parliamentary group and achieved its best result to date in federal elections.

After the turnaround in Bonn, on October 4, 1982, he was appointed Federal Minister for Internal German Relations in the federal government headed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl . After the early general election in 1983 , he was in the inaugural session of the new parliament on March 29, 1983 President of the Bundestag elected, served as such on the same evening the election of Helmut Kohl as chancellor and took the oath of office.

From 1979 to 1980 Barzel was appointed coordinator for German-French cooperation by Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl appointed him to the same position in April 1986.

Awards and honors



  • The spiritual foundations of political parties . Bonn, Schwippert 1947
  • Sovereignty and freedom. A polemic . Cologne, Pick 1950
  • The German parties . Geldern, Schaffrath 1952
  • Karl Arnold. Foundation of Christian-Democratic Politics in Germany. A documentation . Bonn, Berto 1960
  • Investigations into the intellectual and social picture of the present and the future tasks of the CDU , Dortmund 1962
  • Viewpoints of a German . Düsseldorf, Econ 1968
  • It is not too late . Munich, Droemer Knaur 1976
  • On the tightrope . Munich, Droemer Knaur 1978
  • On the way - where from and where? Munich, Droemer Knaur 1982
  • In dispute and controversial. Notes on Konrad Adenauer, Ludwig Erhard and the Eastern Treaties . Berlin, Ullstein 1986
  • Political stories. Personal information from my archive . Berlin, Ullstein 1987
  • Plea for Germany . Berlin, Ullstein 1988
  • The door stayed open - Eastern treaties - no confidence vote - Chancellor overthrow . Bonn, Bouvier 1998, ISBN 3-416-02836-8
  • A daring life . Stuttgart, Hohenheim 2001, ISBN 3-89850-041-1


Web links

Commons : Rainer Barzel  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Karl Lehmann: One always has time for us, sermon in the pontifical request for the President of the Bundestag a. D. Dr. Rainer Barzel . September 5, 2006. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
  2. Save Freedom, With Swimming Pool . In: Der Spiegel . No. 20 , 1960, p. 20 ( Online - May 11, 1960 ). Quote: "It might have played a part in the fact that Barzel was remembered as the 'left wingman' of the North Rhine-Westphalian state authorities ..."
  3. Andreas Grau: In search of the missing votes 1972. On the aftermath of the failed vote of no confidence in Barzel / Brandt. Historical-Political Messages, Archive for Christian-Democratic Politics, Böhlau Verlag Cologne, No. 16, December 30, 2009, p. 4. PDF
  4. ^ BStU : The German Bundestag 1949 to 1989 in the files of the Ministry for State Security (MfS) of the GDR. Report to the German Bundestag in accordance with Section 37 (3) of the Stasi Records Act, Berlin 2013, p. 265ff. ( PDF ( Memento of November 8, 2013 in the Internet Archive )); see. Daniela Münkel : Campaigns, spies, secret channels. The Stasi and Willy Brandt (BF informed, 32/2013). Online publication by the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic - Department of Education and Research, Berlin, November 2013, pp. 48–55.
  5. spiegel.de: Ex-Chancellor candidate Barzel - Crash of a lightning careerist , March 11, 2007, accessed on September 17, 2011
  6. ^ Sandra Schmidt (sas / 08/28/2017): Rainer Barzel: Kluger Anreger und Renewer , bundestag.de
  7. Announcement of awards of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In: Federal Gazette . Vol. 25, No. 43, March 9, 1973.
  8. List of all decorations awarded by the Federal President for services to the Republic of Austria from 1952 (PDF; 6.6 MB)
  9. Merit holders since 1986. State Chancellery of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, accessed on March 11, 2017 .