Walter Scheel

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Walter Scheel, 1974
Signature of Walter Scheel

Walter Scheel (born July 8, 1919 in Höhscheid ; † August 24, 2016 in Bad Krozingen ) was a German politician of the FDP . From 1974 to 1979 he was the fourth Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany .

Before that, from 1961 to 1966 he was in coalition governments with the CDU in the last two cabinets of Konrad Adenauer ( Cabinet Adenauer IV and V ) and, under Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation . From 1969 to 1974 he was Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs and Vice Chancellor in the first and second social liberal federal government . After the resignation of Willy Brandt , he acted as executive chancellor from 7 to 16 May 1974 .

education and profession

Walter Scheel was born the son of wheelwright Albrecht Scheel (1883–1953) and his wife Helene Scheel (1891–1971) in Höhscheid; The basis of his upbringing in the family was the Protestant denomination. After graduating from high school in Schwertstrasse in Solingen , he completed a banking apprenticeship at Volksbank Solingen from 1938 to 1939 , which he completed with a “good”. From September 3, 1939 he served in Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (III. Group) of the Luftwaffe as adjutant to Martin Drewes and was first lieutenant at the end of the war . He received the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class. From 1945 until 1953 he worked as a managing director in the industry and in various associations. He then worked as an independent business consultant in Düsseldorf . In 1958 he became managing director of the market research institute Intermarket. In the same year he founded the Düsseldorf M&A company InterFinanz together with Gerhard Kienbaum and Carl Zimmerer , which he ran with Carl Zimmerer until the end of 1961. In 1964 he sold his company shares (42%) to the co-shareholders.

Private life

Walter Scheel during his time as Federal President with his then wife Mildred and the children Simon Martin, Cornelia and Andrea (from left) in their holiday resort Hinterthal (Austria, August 1974)

Scheel was born in 1942 with Eva Charlotte Scheel. Kronenberg (1921–1966) married, who died of cancer in 1966. The son Ulrich emerged from this marriage. From 1969 until her death in 1985 Walter Scheel was with the doctor Mildred Scheel , geb. Wirtz, married. She brought her daughter Cornelia Scheel into the marriage. From this marriage in 1970 Andrea-Gwendoline emerged; the son Simon Martin was adopted from Bolivia in 1971 .

In 1988 Scheel married the physiotherapist Barbara Wiese. The couple lived in Berlin from 2001 to 2008 and moved to Bad Krozingen in early 2009 . Because of dementia , Walter Scheel lived in a nursing home from 2012. He died on August 24, 2016 at the age of 97 and was buried in the Zehlendorf forest cemetery in Berlin .

Party memberships


On November 13, 1978, Der Spiegel reported that Walter Scheel had declared that he had received notification of his admission to the NSDAP at the front in December 1942 , although he had not applied for membership. According to an article in the period from November 17, 1978 was Scheel then announce that he did not know whether he had requested, his membership but rested. Scheel further denied NSDAP membership with the argument that a soldier in the Wehrmacht was not allowed to be a NSDAP member, most recently in an interview in 2010. In its research report published in October 2010, the Independent Commission of Historians - Foreign Office criticized Scheel's NSDAP membership was only granted years after taking office as foreign minister. In 1970, the then Foreign Minister announced a comprehensive account of the history of the Foreign Office, which was also intended to address the activities of the Office under National Socialism, but this was never written. Such a - albeit controversial - account did not appear until 2010, after Joschka Fischer , Foreign Minister from 1998 to 2005, had set up an independent expert commission years earlier .

From 1946 in the FDP

Walter Scheel had been a member of the FDP since 1946. From 1954 to 1974 he sat on the FDP state executive in North Rhine-Westphalia , including several years as state treasurer. In 1956 he was elected to the FDP federal executive board for the first time , in which he also remained until 1974, partly by virtue of his office as federal minister . In the same year (1956) he was one of the so-called Young Turks (with Willi Weyer , Hans Wolfgang Rubin and Wolfgang Döring, among others ) , who initiated the coalition change of the FDP in North Rhine-Westphalia from the CDU to the SPD and thus the separation of the Euler group and provoked the establishment of the short-lived Free People's Party (FVP). In 1968 he was elected to succeed Erich Mende as federal chairman of the FDP. In 1970/71 he belonged with Werner Maihofer and Karl-Hermann Flach to the authors of the Freiburg Theses , the new basic program of the FDP. With his election as Federal President in 1974, he resigned all party offices. After the end of his tenure as Federal President, he was appointed honorary chairman of the FDP in 1980. From 1968 to 1974 he was Vice President of the “Liberal World Union” (predecessor of the Liberal International ).


Walter Scheel, portrait by Günter Rittner 1996

From 1948 to 1950 Scheel was a city councilor in his hometown of Solingen . From 1950 to 1954 he was a member of the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia as a directly elected member of the Remscheid constituency. In 1953 he became a member of the German Bundestag , to which he was a member until June 27, 1974, since he resigned his Bundestag mandate four days before he took office after his election as Federal President in May. From 1967 to 1969 he was Vice President of the German Bundestag .

From July 1, 1956 to November 20, 1961, he was also a member of the European Parliament . Here he worked from 1959 to 1962 as chairman of the committee for questions relating to the association of overseas countries and territories and from 1958 served as deputy chairman of the Liberal Group.

Public offices

Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation

After the 1961 federal election , Scheel was appointed the first Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation in the Adenauer IV cabinet on November 14, 1961 . On November 19, 1962, on the occasion of the Spiegel affair , he resigned in protest together with the other FDP federal ministers. He then belonged to the cabinet that was formed on December 13, 1962 without the controversial Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss , but with the same function. He kept this office in the federal government led by Chancellor Ludwig Erhard . Because of a dispute over the federal budget, he resigned on October 28, 1966 together with the other FDP federal ministers from his office.

Walter Scheel visits the Erin colliery in Castrop-Rauxel as Federal President (1975)

Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs

After the Bundestag election in 1969, he made a decisive contribution to the formation of a social liberal federal government and was appointed Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs in Willy Brandt's cabinet on October 22, 1969 . In 1970, Walter Scheel was the first German Foreign Minister to visit Israel , which was diplomatically recognized in 1965. Scheel, along with Willy Brandt, is considered to be the "father of détente policy " and the new German policy , which was initially fiercely opposed by the Union parties and also led to parliamentary withdrawals from the governing parties SPD and FDP, so that the majority in the German Bundestag was temporarily lost. The new elections in 1972 strengthened both the SPD and Walters Scheel's positions in the FDP and demonstrated the high level of acceptance of social liberal politics. Walter Scheel became very well known in 1973 when he sang the German folk song " Up on the yellow car " on record for the benefit of the disabled aid organization Aktion Sorgekind . By the spring of 1974 alone, the record had been sold over 300,000 times. Even during his later term in office as Federal President, he achieved great popularity with this type of unusual and charitable fundraising.

After the resignation of Federal Chancellor Brandt on May 7, 1974, at the request of the Federal President, Scheel assumed the official duties of the Federal Chancellor on a transitional basis in accordance with Article 69, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law , until Helmut Schmidt was elected as the new Federal Chancellor on May 16, 1974.

1978: Walter Scheel receives US President Jimmy Carter ( left )

Federal President

In the election of the German Federal President 1974 on May 15, 1974, he was elected the fourth Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany with 530 votes from the SPD and FDP in the Federal Assembly in the Beethoven Hall in Bonn against Richard von Weizsäcker (CDU, 498 votes) Took up his new post in July 1974. In 1976, as Federal President, he refused to sign a law abolishing the examination of conscience among conscientious objectors because he considered the approval of the Bundesrat to be necessary. In view of the majority situation in the Federal Assembly, he did not stand again for the election of the German Federal President in 1979 and resigned from office on June 30, 1979.

In retrospect, his term of office as Federal President is viewed ambivalently. He was accused of not having a large draft of how he intended to fill the office. His finer lifestyle and a more splendid furnishings in the official seat and ceremonial differed significantly from that of his more purist predecessors and were therefore partially criticized - especially at the beginning of his term of office. Scheel received praise for his open and optimistic manner.

Badge on the Scheel House in Bad Krozingen

The former Federal President maintained his office in the town hall of his place of residence in Bad Krozingen until 2014 . The office was closed on August 1, 2014, and the leasing contract for his company car was not extended by the Office of the Federal President . Scheel's office manager has since been in charge of the business from the Federal President's Office in Berlin.

Coat of arms (order of seraphine )
State visits
year month States
1975 21-25 April FranceFrance France
15-20 June United StatesUnited States United States
10-15 November Soviet Union 1955Soviet Union Soviet Union
November 28th Spain 1945Spain Spain
1976 15-18 June FinlandFinland Finland
18. – 19. June SwedenSweden Sweden
1977 5th-6th June BahamasBahamas Bahamas
6-9 June Costa RicaCosta Rica Costa Rica
9-15 June MexicoMexico Mexico
22.-24. September SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland
1978 16. – 19. January MexicoMexico Mexico
16.-21. April JapanJapan Japan
21.-24. April IranIran Iran
16.-18. October Cook IslandsCook Islands Cook Islands
18.-23. October New ZealandNew Zealand New Zealand
23-27 October AustraliaAustralia Australia
27.-28. October MauritiusMauritius Mauritius
1979 19.-23. February AustriaAustria Austria
June 16 DenmarkDenmark Denmark

Honorary positions

From 1967 to 1974 Scheel was deputy chairman of the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation, in 1979 he became its chairman of the board of trustees; since 1991 he has been honorary chairman of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. From 1980 to 1985 he was chairman of the Bilderberg Conference and from 1980 to 1989 President of the European Union . In 1978 Scheel became chairman of the board of trustees of the Hermann Art Foundation for the Promotion of New Testament Text Research , which promotes the work of the Institute for New Testament Text Research in Münster. In 1979 he became an honorary member of the German Academy for Language and Poetry ; Thomas Bernhard took this as an opportunity to resign from this. From 1995 to 2000 Scheel was 1st Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt Foundation , a federal foundation under public law based in Berlin . In the successor to Theodor Heuss and Carlo Schmid , Scheel was honorary president of the German Association of Artists from 1980 . From 1980 to 1985 Walter Scheel was President of the German Council of the European Movement , of which he was Honorary President until his death. From 2011 until his death, Walter Scheel was the patron of the non-profit association “ProBeethovenhalle eV” in Bonn.

Scheel was Honorary Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Plan International and Honorary President of the German-British Society .

Scheel was the patron of the Darul-Aman Foundation , which supports the reconstruction of the Darul-Aman Palace as the future parliament building of Afghanistan. He also supported the Solingen Botanical Garden Foundation in his hometown Solingen as patron. V. supported the support association of the Botanical Garden Solingen for around 13 years until his death in 2016 with appeals for donations or with greetings at official events.

Awards and honors (extract)

In 1971 Scheel was awarded the Theodor Heuss Prize and the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic , followed in 1974 by the order against seriousness . In 1977 he was awarded the Charlemagne Prize and the Collane des Ordens de Isabel la Católica , having received the Grand Cross in 1970. Walter Scheel has been an honorary citizen of his hometown Solingen since 1976 , of Berlin and Bonn since 1978 , of Düsseldorf since 1979 and of Kranichfeld since 2006 . In 2000 he received the Reinhold Maier Medal . In 1973 he received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and, when he was elected Federal President, he received the special level of the Grand Cross as official insignia. Scheel received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Georgetown and Maryland (both USA), Auckland (New Zealand), Bristol (Great Britain) and Heidelberg . Walter Scheel has been awarded over sixty international medals.

His grave in the forest cemetery in Zehlendorf is dedicated to the city of Berlin as an honorary grave .

The estate of Walter Scheel is u. a. in the archive of liberalism of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Gummersbach .

Scheel's last study in the town hall of Bad Krozingen will in future be available to the public as a museum memorial.

Since July 8, 2018, the Solingen town hall square has been called "Walter-Scheel-Platz".


Chart positions
Explanation of the data
Up on the yellow car
  DE 5 
07/01/1974 (15 weeks)

In 1969 Scheel was named Tie Man of the Year .

Walter Scheel's musical performance became very famous with the folk song Hoch auf dem Yellow Wagen , which he recorded together with two Düsseldorf male choirs . This was performed on the television show Three Times Nine on December 6, 1973 ; In January 1974, the song was number five in the German single charts .

In 1987 he hosted the pilot episode of the ZDF talk show live .

In 2006 Scheel sang the mentioned song with a choir in a TV show by the presenter Gunther Emmerlich . Scheel was a guest there because Hans-Dietrich Genscher presented him with a prize.

On May 26, 2011, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development awarded the Walter Scheel Prize for engagement in development cooperation for the first time . The prize has been awarded jointly since 2015 by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the Walter Scheel Foundation , the Freundeskreis Walter Scheel e. V. awarded.

Scheel was the last remaining Federal Minister in the cabinets of Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard.

See also


Honorary grave of the city of Berlin for Walter Scheel at the forest cemetery in Zehlendorf


  • Opposition as a mandate. In: Liberal. 1967, No. 8, pp. 575-580.
  • Opposition. Criticism and control. In: Liberal. 1967, No. 11, pp. 806-809.
  • Germany in Europe. In: Liberal. 1968, No. 5, pp. 329-338.
  • The intellectual position of the liberals at this time. In: Hans Julius Schoeps , Christopher Dannenmann (Hrsg.): Formulas German politics. Bechtle, Munich / Esslingen 1969, DNB 456640444 , pp. 15-50.
  • The basic contract. In: Liberal. 1973, issue 6, p. 401 f.
  • The democratic view of history. In: Forschungsgemeinschaft July 20, 1944 e. V. (Ed.): Thoughts on July 20. Hase and Koehler, Mainz 1984, pp. 81-97.
  • TV duel 1969. In: Sascha Michel, Heiko Girnth (Hrsg.): Polit-Talkshows - Bühnen der Macht. A look behind the scenes. Bouvier, Bonn 2009, ISBN 3-416-03280-2 , pp. 161-164.


  • Contours of a new world. Difficulties, disillusionment and opportunities in the industrialized countries. Econ, Düsseldorf / Vienna 1965, DNB 454318030 .
  • Your future - our future , H. Möller Verlag, Bonn 1965.
  • with Hans Ruthenberg, Wolfram Ruhenstroth-Bauer: Tasks and motives of agricultural development policy. Schaper, Hanover 1966, DNB 458824658 .
  • Formulas of German Politics , Beutle Verlag, Munich 1968.
  • Why codetermination and how - a discussion , Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf 1970.
  • with Karl-Hermann Flach , Werner Maihofer : The Freiburg theses of the liberals. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1972, ISBN 3-499-11545-X .
  • Memories and insights. In conversation with Jürgen Engert . Hohenheim, Stuttgart / Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-89850-115-9 .


  • Perspectives of German Politics. Diederichs, Düsseldorf / Cologne 1969, OCLC 7521668 .
  • After thirty years - the Federal Republic of Germany. Past present Future. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1979, ISBN 3-12-911940-X .
  • The other German question. Culture and society of the Federal Republic of Germany after 30 years. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-12-911941-8
  • with Otto Graf Lambsdorff : Freedom in Responsibility - German Liberalism since 1945. History, People, Perspectives. Bleicher, Gerlingen 1998, ISBN 3-88350-047-X .
  • with Tobias Thalhammer : Together we are stronger. Twelve pleasant stories about young and old. Allpart Media, Berlin 2010, ISBN 3-86214-011-3 .


  • Bundestag speeches. Edited by Guido Brunner . AZ-Studio, Berlin 1972, DNB 730270084 .
  • Speeches and interviews [1969–1974]. 2 volumes. Edited by the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government . Deutscher Bundesverlag, Bonn 1972–1974, DNB 540364703 .
  • Speeches and interviews [1974–1979]. 5 volumes. Edited by the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government. Deutscher Bundesverlag, Bonn 1975–1979, DNB 550531831 .
  • The right of the other. Thoughts on freedom. 2nd Edition. Econ, Düsseldorf / Vienna 1977, ISBN 3-430-17931-9 (volume of speeches).
  • The future of freedom. Thinking and acting in our democracy. Econ, Düsseldorf / Vienna 1979, ISBN 3-430-17929-7 (volume of speeches).
  • The future of freedom - On the rights of others. Speeches 1975–1979. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin / Vienna 1981, ISBN 3-548-34057-1 (selection of speeches).
  • Who still hurts Germany's division? 2 speeches for June 17th. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1986, ISBN 3-499-18346-3 .


  • Up on the yellow car / Wohlauf In Gottes Schöne Welt - record, Polydor 1973, DNB 359779891 .


  • Werner Billing: Scheel, Walter. In: Udo Kempf, Hans-Georg Merz (Ed.): Chancellor and Minister 1949–1998. Biographical Encyclopedia of German federal governments , Wiesbaden 2001, pp 578-582.
  • Michael Bohnet: Walter Scheel. The first development minister of the Federal Republic of Germany (1961–1966). The beginnings of German development policy , ed. v. Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Bonn / Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-00-028207-2 .
  • Hermann Otto Bolesch: Typically Scheel. Stories, anecdotes, punch lines. Bertelsmann, Munich / Gütersloh / Vienna 1973, ISBN 3-570-02147-5 .
  • Ulrich Brinkhoff: Nightmares on the Saigon River, South Vietnam 1965-1968. agenda Verlag, Münster 2014, ISBN 978-3-89688-516-6 (with foreword by Walter Scheel).
  • Jürgen Frölich : Walter Scheel . In: Portal Rheinische Geschichte, 2017.
  • Hans-Dietrich Genscher (Hrsg.): Cheerfulness and hardness. Walter Scheel in his speeches and in the judgment of contemporaries. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-421-06218-8 .
  • Walter Henkels : 99 Bonn heads , reviewed and supplemented edition, Fischer-Bücherei, Frankfurt am Main 1965, p. 212 ff.
  • Walter Henkels : ... but the car that rolls. Walter Scheel anecdotal. Econ, Düsseldorf / Vienna 1974, ISBN 3-430-14300-4 .
  • Hans-Roderich Schneider: President of the Compensation. Federal President Walter Scheel. A liberal politician. Bonn aktuell, Stuttgart 1975, ISBN 3-87959-045-1 (first edition 1974: Walter Scheel: Acting & Working a Liberal Politician ).
  • Günther Scholz: Walter Scheel. In: Günther Scholz / Martin E. Süskind: The Federal Presidents, Munich 2004, pp. 251–289.
  • Mathias Siekmeier: Walter Scheel. In: Torsten Oppelland (Ed.): Deutsche Politiker 1949–1969 , Volume 2, Darmstadt 1999, pp. 155–164.

Web links

Commons : Walter Scheel  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Famous Höhscheider ( memento from September 10, 2012 in the web archive ).
  2. ^ Dieter E. Kilian : Politics and the military in Germany . Miles-Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-937885-36-0 , pp. 116 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  3. Jürgen Frölich : Walter Scheel. In: Rhenish history portal, accessed on June 24, 2020 .
  4. ^ History - InterFinanz GmbH., accessed on August 29, 2016 .
  5. ^ Obituary for Walter Scheel at WDR .
  6. Alexandra Wenning : Walter Scheel leaves Berlin , in: BZ , October 6, 2008, accessed on May 18, 2013.
  7. Use by the wife: Presidential Office deprives Scheel of the company car
  8. EIL: Former Federal President Walter Scheel is dead . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . ISSN  0174-4917 ( [accessed on August 24, 2016]).
  9. ^ The grave of Walter Scheel .
  10. Carstens: "I have such dark memories" . In: Der Spiegel . No. 46 , 1978, pp. 21-23 ( online ).
  11. Kurt Becker: The shadows of the past . In: The time . No. 47/1978.
  12. Scheel: Understanding for Horst Köhler . In: Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung , June 14, 2010 ( online ).
  13. Eckart Conze , Norbert Frei , Peter Hayes and Moshe Zimmermann : The office and the past . German diplomats in the Third Reich and in the Federal Republic. Karl Blessing Verlag, Munich 2010, p. 663.
  14. Eckart Conze, Norbert Frei, Peter Hayes, Moshe Zimmermann: The office and the past. German diplomats in the Third Reich and in the Federal Republic. P. 11.
  15. ^ Walter Scheel at the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia .
  16. Paul Lersch: "Coincidence that he did not ruin the office" . In: Der Spiegel . No. 22 , 1979, pp. 27-32 ( Online - May 28, 1979 ).
  17. ^ Pay of honor, office and staff - A question of morality and decency. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. March 11, 2012.
  18. ^ The court places care for Walter Scheel under supervision. Berliner Morgenpost, November 14, 2014, accessed on February 23, 2015 .
  19. Former Steering Committee Members on .
  20. Jürgen Mittag: The European Movement in Germany (1949-2009). From dignitaries to organized civil society . Bonn 2009, p. 29.
  21. Announcement of awards of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In: Federal Gazette . Vol. 25, No. 43, March 9, 1973.
  22. ^ Dpa: Former Federal President Walter Scheel's office becomes a museum. Süddeutsche Zeitung, August 21, 2017, accessed on August 26, 2020 .
  23. Charts DE .
  24. Audible distribution. Former Federal President Scheel talked about the nation's ridicule and ZDF . In: Der Spiegel . No. 15 , 1987 ( online ).
  25. ^ Walter Scheel Prize 2011 ( Memento from August 29, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  26. Bernd Haunfelder : record holder in parliament .