Gustav Heinemann

Gustav Walter Heinemann (23 July 1899 – 7 July 1976) was a German politician. He was Mayor of the city of Essen from 1946 to 1949, West German Minister of the Interior from 1949 to 1950, Minister of Justice from 1966 to 1969 and President of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) from 1969 to 1974.

Gustav Heinemann
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F029021-0010, Gustav Heinemann
Gustav Heinemann in 1969
President of Germany
(West Germany)
In office
1 July 1969 – 30 June 1974
ChancellorKurt Georg Kiesinger
Willy Brandt
Helmut Schmidt
Preceded byHeinrich Lübke
Succeeded byWalter Scheel
Federal Minister of Justice
In office
1 December 1966 – 26 March 1969
ChancellorKurt Georg Kiesinger
Preceded byRichard Jaeger
Succeeded byHorst Ehmke
Federal Minister of the Interior
In office
29 September 1949 – 11 October 1950
ChancellorKonrad Adenauer
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byRobert Lehr
Personal details
Gustav Walter Heinemann

23 July 1899
Schwelm, Westphalia, Prussia, Germany
Died7 July 1976 (aged 76)
Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
Political partyChristian Social People's Service
Christian Democratic Union
All-German People's Party
Social Democratic Party of Germany
Spouse(s)Hilda Ordemann (1896–1979)
Gustav Heinemann's signature

Early years and professional career

He was named after his mother's father, a master roof tiler in the city of Barmen, with radical-democratic, left-liberal, and patriotic views. His maternal grandfather, Heinemann's great-grandfather, had taken part in the Revolution of 1848. His father, Otto Heinemann, a manager at the Krupp steelworks in Essen, shared his father-in-law's views. In his youth, Gustav already felt called upon to preserve and promote the liberal and democratic traditions of 1848. Throughout his life, he fought against all kinds of subservience. This attitude helped him to maintain his intellectual independence even in the face of majorities in political parties and in the Church.[1]

Having finished his elite secondary education in 1917, Heinemann briefly became a soldier in the First World War, but his severe illness stopped him from being sent to the front.

From 1918, he studied law, economics, and history at the universities of Münster, Marburg, Munich, Göttingen, and Berlin, graduating in 1922 and passing the bar in 1926. He received a Ph.D in 1922 and a doctorate of law in 1929.

The friendships that Heinemann formed during his student years often lasted for a lifetime. Among his friends were such different people as Wilhelm Röpke, who was to become one of the leading figures of economic liberalism, Ernst Lemmer, later a trade unionist and also a Christian Democrat, and Viktor Agartz, a Marxist.

At the beginning of his career, Heinemann joined a renowned firm of solicitors in Essen. In 1929, he published a book about legal questions in the medical profession. From 1929 to 1949, he worked as a legal adviser to the Rheinische Stahlwerke in Essen, and from 1936 to 1949, he was also one of its directors.

The steelworks were considered to be essential for the war so Heinemann was not drafted into the army. He was a lecturer at the law school of the University of Cologne between 1933 and 1939. It was probably his refusal to become a member of the Nazi Party that finished his academic career.[2]

He was also invited to join the board of directors of the Rheinisch-Westfaelisches Kohlesyndikat in 1936, but he refused, as he was expected to end his work for the Confessing Church.

Family and religion

In 1926, Heinemann married Hilda Ordemann (1896-1979), who had been a student of Rudolf Bultmann, the famous Protestant theologian. His wife and the minister of his wife's parish, Wilhelm Graeber, led Heinemann back to Christianity from which he had become estranged.[2] Through his sister-in-law, he became acquainted with Swiss theologian Karl Barth, who strongly influenced him such as in his condemnation of nationalism and antisemitism.

Gustav and Hilda Heinemann had three daughters, Uta (later Uta Ranke-Heinemann), Christa (mother of Christina Rau, former federal president Johannes Rau's wife) and Barbara; they also had a son, Peter.

Heinemann was an elder (Presbyter) in Wilhelm Graeber's parish in Essen, when Graeber was sacked in 1933 by the new church authorities who co-operated with the Nazis. Opposition against those German Christians came from the Confessing Church, and Heinemann became a member of its synod and its legal adviser. As he disagreed with some of the developments within the Confessing Church, he withdrew from the church leadership in 1939, but he continued as an elder in his parish, in whose capacity he gave legal advice to persecuted fellow Christians and helped Jews who had gone into hiding by providing them with food.[3]

Information sheets of the Confessing Church were printed in the cellar of Heinemann's house at Schinkelstrasse 34 in Essen, Moltkeviertel, and distributed all over Germany.

From 1936 to 1950, Heinemann was head of the YMCA in Essen.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R95855, Bethel, Generalsynode, Gustav Heinemann spricht
Heinemann, at the general synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany, 1949

In August 1945, he was elected as a member of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany. The Council issued the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt in October 1945 in which it confessed guilt for the failure of the Protestant church not to oppose the Nazis and the Third Reich. Heinemann regarded the declaration as a "linchpin" in his work for the church.

From 1949 to 1955, Heinemann was president of the all-German Synod of the Protestant Churches of Germany. He was among the founders of the German Protestant Church Congress (Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag), a congress of the Protestant laity. In 1949, he was also one of the founding editors of Die Stimme der Gemeinde ("The Voice of the Congregation"), a magazine which was published by the Bruderrat (Brethren's Council) of the Confessing Church. In the World Council of Churches he belonged to its "Commission for International Affairs".

Early political career

As a student, Heinemann, like his friends Lemmer and Roepke, belonged to the Reichsbund deutscher demokratischer Studenten, the student organization of the liberal German Democratic Party, which strongly supported the democracy of the Weimar Republic.

He heard Hitler speak in Munich in 1920 and had to leave the room after interrupting Hitler's diatribe against the Jews.[4]

In 1930, Heinemann joined the Christlich-Sozialer Volksdienst ("Christian Social People's Service"), but he voted for the Social Democratic Party in 1933 to try to prevent a victory of the NSDAP.[3]


After the Second World War, the British authorities appointed Heinemann mayor of Essen, and in 1946, he was elected to that office, which he kept until 1949. He was one of the founders of the Christian Democratic Union in North Rhine-Westphalia, in which he saw an interdenominational and democratic association of people opposed to Nazism. He was a member of the North Rhine-Westphalian parliament (Landtag, 1947–1950), and from 1947 to 1948, he was Minister of Justice in the North Rhine-Westphalian government of CDU Prime Minister Karl Arnold.

When Konrad Adenauer became the first Chancellor of the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, he wanted a representative of the Protestants in the CDU in his government. Heinemann, the president of the Synod of Protestant Churches, reluctantly agreed to become the Minister of the Interior although he had planned to resume his career in industry.[5]

A year later, when it became known that Adenauer had secretly offered German participation in a Western European army, Heinemann resigned from the government. He was convinced that any form of armament in West Germany would diminish chances of German reunification and increase risk of war.[6]

Heinemann left the CDU, and, in 1952, he founded his own political party, the All-German People's Party (Gesamtdeutsche Volkspartei). Among its members were such politicians as future Federal President Johannes Rau and also Erhard Eppler. They advocated negotiations with the Soviet Union with the aim of a reunited, neutral Germany between the blocs, but the GVP failed to attract many voters. Heinemann dissolved his party in 1957 and joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), whose aims were relatively close to his own.

There, he soon became a member of the party's National Executive. He helped the SPD to change into a Volkspartei (party of the people) by opening it up for socially-minded Protestants and middle-class people especially in the industrial districts of Germany.

In October 1950 Heinemann had started practising as a lawyer again. In court, he predominantly represented political and religious minorities. He also worked for the release of prisoners in East Germany.[3] Later, he defended conscientious objectors to compulsory military service and Jehovah's Witnesses in court. The latter refused to do even community work instead of military service because of their absolute conscientious objection.[7]

As an MP in the Bundestag, the parliament of West Germany, Heinemann passionately fought against Adenauer's plans of acquiring atomic weapons for the West German army (Bundeswehr).

In the "Grand Coalition" government of Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) and Foreign Minister Willy Brandt (SPD) Heinemann was Minister of Justice (1966–1969). He initiated a number of liberal reforms, especially in the field of criminal law.

President of the Federal Republic of Germany

In March 1969 Gustav Heinemann was elected President of the Federal Republic of Germany. As he was elected with the help of most delegates of the Free Democratic Party (FDP/Liberals) his election was generally understood as a sign of the re-orientation of the FDP with regard to a future coalition with the SPD (Social-liberal coalition, October 1969 - October 1982).

In an interview Heinemann once said that he wanted to be "the citizens' president" rather than "the president of the state". He established the tradition of inviting ordinary citizens to the president's New Year's receptions, and in his speeches, he encouraged the Germans to overcome the tradition of submissiveness to the authorities, to make full use of their democratic rights and to defend the rule of law and social justice.[8]That attitude and his open-mindedness towards the student protests of 1968 made him popular among the younger generation as well.

When asked whether he loved the German state, he answered that he loved not the state but his wife.[9]

Heinemann mainly visited countries that had been occupied by German troops in World War II. He supported the social-liberal government's policy of reconciliation with the Eastern European states. He promoted research into the nature of conflicts and of peace, as well as about problems of the environment.[3]

It was Heinemann's idea to found a museum for the commemoration of German liberation movements, and he was able to open such a place officially in Rastatt in 1974. His interest in that subject was partly from the involvement of his own ancestors in the revolution of 1848.[10]

On account of his age and fragile health, he did not stand for a possible second term as President in 1974. He died in 1976.

A short time before his death he published an essay in which he criticized the Radikalenerlass ("Radicals Decree") of 1972, a rule that subjected all candidates for the civil service (including prospective teachers, railway engine drivers, and postmen) to special scrutiny to exclude political radicals. He thought it was not compatible with the spirit of the constitution that a large group of people were generally treated as suspects.[11]

Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F043317-0068, Bahnhof Köln, Abschied Bundespräsident Heinemann
Farewell at Cologne station, 1974

The Gustav-Heinemann-Friedenspreis (Gustav Heinemann Peace Prize) is an annual prize for children's and young people's books that are deemed to have best promoted the cause of world peace.

Honours and awards

Named after Heinemann

  • the Gustav-Heinemann-Bürgerpreis (donated 1977 by the SPD )
  • the Gustav-Heinemann-Friedenspreis für Kinder- und Jugendbücher (since 1982)
  • the Gustav Heinemann Bildungsstätte at the Keller sea in Bad Malente-Gremsmühlen
  • many schools
  • a meanwhile closed barrack
  • the Gustav-Heinemann-Brücke over the Spree in Berlin district Bezirk Mitte (since 2005)


  1. ^ Helmut Lindemann: Gustav Heinemann. Ein Leben für die Demokratie. Munich (Koesel) 1986, (1st ed. 1978), ISBN 3-466-41012-6, p. 14
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b c d Diether Koch (2000). "Gustav Heinemann". In Bautz, Traugott (ed.). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 17. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 620–631. ISBN 3-88309-080-8.
  4. ^ Lindemann (1986), p. 32
  5. ^ Lindemann (1986), p. 89
  6. ^ Hans Prolingheuer: Kleine politische Kirchengeschichte. Cologne 1984, p. 123
  7. ^ Diether Posser: Erinnerungen an Gustav W. Heinemann, Bonn, 1999
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-04-03. Retrieved 2017-03-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^
  10. ^ Posser (1999)
  11. ^ Freimütige Kritik und demokratischer Rechtsstaat in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, supplement to Das Parlament, 22 May 1976
  12. ^ "HEINEMANN Dott. Gustav W. decorato di Gran Cordone" (in Italian). Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 369. Retrieved 14 October 2012.

Further reading

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Heinrich Lübke
President of West Germany
Succeeded by
Walter Scheel
1969 West German presidential election

An indirect presidential election (officially the 5th Federal Convention) was held in West Germany on 5 March 1969. The incumbent President, Heinrich Lübke had served two terms and was therefore ineligible for a third. The Christian Democratic Union nominated defense minister Gerhard Schröder. Schröder was a controversial choice, even within his own party, since he had been a member of the NSDAP and the SA under Hitler. Other potential candidates included Helmut Kohl and Richard von Weizsäcker, relatively unknown names at the time, who would go on to serve as Chancellor and President respectively. Justice Minister Gustav Heinemann was nominated by the Social Democratic Party and supported by the opposition Free Democratic Party. With neither candidate able to win an absolute majority, Heinemann won the election on the third ballot by only 6 votes.

1970 in Germany

Events in the year 1970 in Germany.

1971 in Germany

Events in the year 1971 in Germany.

1974 West German presidential election

An indirect presidential election (officially the 6th Federal Convention) was held in West Germany on 23 May 1974. Though not term limited, incumbent Gustav Heinemann chose not to seek a second term. The government parties (SPD and FDP) nominated Vice-Chancellor Walter Scheel; the Christian Democratic Union nominated Richard von Weizsäcker. Scheel won the election by 32 votes on the first ballot. He served as president until 1979. Weizsäcker would later serve as president from 1984 to 1994.

1974 in Germany

Events in the year 1974 in Germany.

All-German People's Party

The All-German People's Party (German: Gesamtdeutsche Volkspartei, GVP) was a minor political party in West Germany active between 1952 and 1957. It was a Christian, pacifist, centre-left party that opposed the re-armament of West Germany because it believed that the remilitarisation and NATO integration would make German reunification impossible, deepen the division of Europe and pose a danger to peace.

Most members were dissidents from the Christian Democratic Union or German Centre Party who disagreed with the foreign and intra-German policy of Konrad Adenauer's government. The party failed to win broader public support, only gaining 1.2% in the federal election. The party dissolved and many members joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD), with a number of former GVP activists rising to high-ranking positions, including two Presidents of Germany, Gustav Heinemann and Johannes Rau.

Carola Stern

Carola Stern (born Ahlbeck 14 November 1925: died Berlin 19 January 2006) was the name under which Erika Assmus reinvented herself as a serious journalist and (subsequently) author and politically committed television presenter, after she was obliged to relocate at short notice from East Germany to West Germany in 1951.She was a co-founder of the German section of the Human Rights organisation, Amnesty International.She was held in high regard by her fellow writers, and was the vice-president of the energetic German Section of PEN International between 1987 and 1995, after which she became a PEN "Honorary President".

Christian Social People's Service

The Christian Social People's Service (German: Christlich-Sozialer Volksdienst) was a Protestant conservative political party in the Weimar Republic.

The CSVD was founded in December 1929 through the merger of two Protestant political formations: the Christlich-soziale Reichsvereinigung (Christian Social Reich Association) and the Christlicher Volksdienst (Christian People's Service). Both had emerged from dissatisfaction amongst Protestants towards the developments within the German National People's Party (DNVP). The two groups differed on many issues, such as the role of the Republic, but were able to keep organizational unity. The CSVD portrayed itself as a Protestant version of the Catholic Centre and was mainly supported by middle-class elements. In the main they were considered to be part of the moderate tendency within the DNVP, as opposed to the radical nationalist leadership of Alfred Hugenberg.The CSVD contested the 1930 and 1932 parliamentary elections; the party CSVD formed a joint parliamentary group with the Christlich-Nationale Bauern- und Landvolkpartei (Christian National Peasants' and Rural Peoples Party) in the Reichstag. After the Nazi take-over in 1933, the CSVD was dissolved.

The President of the Federal Republic of Germany Gustav Heinemann (1969–74) was a member of CSVD during the Weimar Republic.

Erinnerungsstätte für die Freiheitsbewegungen in der deutschen Geschichte

The Erinnerungsstätte für die Freiheitsbewegungen in der deutschen Geschichte (literally Memorial site for freedom movements in German history) is a museum and memorial to free democratic traditions in Germany. It is housed in the Schloss Rastatt (chosen due to the town of Rastatt being a key site in the Baden Revolution and the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states) and known as the Freiheitsmuseum (Freedom Museum) for short.

It was opened on 26 June 1974 by president Gustav Heinemann. It is overseen and owned by the German Federal Archives and is a central stopping-point on the 'Democracy Way' from Frankfurt to Lörrach. It has also mounted exhibitions on various topics, with permanent displays on:

Freedom movements in the early modern period

Social issues

Between Two Revolutions: 1789–1848

The March Revolution 1848

Die Deutsche Nationalversammlung 1848/49

Fundamental rights

The Struggle on the Reichsverfassung 1849

The long road to democracy: 1850–1918

Freedom-fighters who emigrated

Germany 1918–1945 - Resistance in Nazi Germany

The "Weiße Rose"

Germany 1945–1990 - Resistance in the Soviet Zone and East Germany

Gustav W. Heinemann and Rastatt

Gerhard Schröder (CDU)

Gerhard Schröder (11 September 1910 – 31 December 1989) was a West German politician and member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. He served as Federal Minister of the Interior from 1953 to 1961, as Foreign Minister from 1961 to 1966, and as Minister of Defence from 1966 until 1969. In the 1969 election he ran for President of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) but was outpolled by Gustav Heinemann.

Gustav Heinemann Bridge

Gustav Heinemann Bridge (German: Gustav-Heinemann-Brücke) is a bridge connecting Berlin-Moabit and Tiergarten in Berlin, Germany.

Heinrich Lübke

Karl Heinrich Lübke (German: [ˈhaɪnʁɪç ˈlʏpkə]; 14 October 1894 – 6 April 1972) was a German politician who was the second President of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) from 1959 to 1969.

Prior to his presidency he served as Federal Minister for Agriculture. Besides agriculture he was interested in the state of developing countries. The moderate conservative suffered from deteriorating health towards the end of his career, and is known for a series of embarrassing incidents that may have resulted from his health issues. Lübke resigned three months before the scheduled end of his second term.

Johannes Rau

Johannes Rau (German pronunciation: [joˈhanəs ˈʁaʊ]; 16 January 1931 – 27 January 2006) was a German politician (SPD). He was President of Germany from 1 July 1999 until 30 June 2004 and Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia from 20 September 1978 to 9 June 1998. In the latter role, he also served as President of the Bundesrat in 1982/83 and in 1994/1995.

Kiesinger cabinet

The Kiesinger cabinet was the eighth of the Federal Republic of Germany. It was Germany's first Grand Coalition, a coalition between the CDU/CSU (led by Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who became Chancellor) and the SPD (headed by Willy Brandt, who became Vice Chancellor). The Bundestag chosen in the September 1965 election initially resulted in the Cabinet Erhard II, but when the FDP resigned from the government, that led to the formation of this new cabinet.

1 December 1966 – 21 October 1969

Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) – Chancellor

Willy Brandt (SPD) – Vice Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs

Gerhard Schröder (CDU) – Minister of Defense

Paul Lücke (CDU) – Minister of the Interior

Franz Josef Strauß (CSU) – Minister of Finance

Gustav Heinemann (SPD) – Minister of Justice

Karl Schiller (SPD) – Minister of Economics

Hans Katzer (CDU) – Minister of Labour and Social Affairs

Hermann Höcherl (CSU) – Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry

Georg Leber (SPD) – Minister of Transport

Lauritz Lauritzen (SPD) – Minister of Construction

Bruno Heck (CDU) – Minister of Family and Youth

Käte Strobel (SPD) – Minister of Health

Gerhard Stoltenberg (CDU) – Minister of Scientific Research

Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski (SPD) – Minister of Economic Cooperation

Werner Dollinger (CSU) – Minister of Posts and Communications

Kai-Uwe von Hassel (CDU) – Minister of Displaced Persons, Refugees, and War Victims

Herbert Wehner (SPD) – Minister of All-German Affairs

Carlo Schmid (SPD) – Minister of Bundesrat and State Affairs

Kurt Schmücker (CDU) – Minister of Federal TreasureChanges

2 April 1968 – Ernst Benda (CDU) succeeds Lücke as Minister of the Interior.

16 October 1968 – Aenne Brauksiepe (CDU) succeeds Heck as Minister of Family and Youth. Erhard Eppler (SPD) succeeds Wischnewski as Minister of Economic Cooperation.

7 February 1969 – Heinrich Windelen (CDU) succeeds von Hassel as Minister of Displaced Persons, Refugees, and War Victims after the latter was elected to President of the Bundestag.

26 March 1969 – Horst Ehmke (SPD) succeeds Heinemann as Minister of Justice after the latter was elected to 5th President of Germany.

Schönhauser Straße (KVB)

Schönhauser Straße is a station on the Cologne Stadtbahn line 16, located in the Cologne district of Bayenthal. The station lies on Gustav-Heinemann-Ufer, adjacent to Schönhauser Straße, after which it is named.

The station was opened by the Bonn–Cologne Railway Company in 1905 and consists of two side platforms with two rail tracks.

Ulrike Poppe

Ulrike Poppe (original name Ulrike Wick; born 26 January 1953 in Rostock, GDR) was a member of the East German opposition. In 1982 she founded the "Women for Peace" network and in 1985 joined the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights. In 1989 she joined Democracy Now.

In 1995 she was awarded the Order of Merit and in 2000 the Gustav Heinemann Prize.

Since 2001 she has been married to Claus Offe.

Uta Ranke-Heinemann

Uta Ranke-Heinemann (born 2 October 1927) is a German theologian, academic, and author. She holds the (nondenominational) chair of History of Religion at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Essen, her birthplace.

Vierendeel bridge

A Vierendeel bridge is a bridge employing a Vierendeel truss, named after Arthur Vierendeel.

Such trusses do not have the usual triangular voids seen in a pin–joint truss bridge, rather employing rectangular openings and rigid connections in the elements, which (unlike a conventional truss) must also resist substantial bending forces. Owing to a lesser economy of materials and the difficulty of design before the advent of computers, this truss is rarely used in bridges outside Belgium. The form is more commonly employed in building structures where large shear walls or diagonal elements would interfere with the building's aesthetics or functionality.

The first such bridge was built in steel at Avelgem, Belgium in 1902, following development of the truss form and a method to calculate its strength in 1896 by Arthur Vierendeel. There are many more examples in Belgium, also constructed in concrete, mostly designed by Vierendeel's many students in a long career as professor in civil engineering.

The city of Glendale, California has three Vierendeel truss bridges: the Geneva Street, Kenilworth Avenue, and Glenoaks Boulevard bridges, all two-lane bridges spanning 95 feet. They were built in 1937 as part of the Verdugo Flood Control Project, the first project of the United States Army Corps of Engineers after passage of the Flood Control Act of 1936.The double-deck cable-stayed Kap Shui Mun Bridge in Hong Kong uses a Vierendeel truss. Opened in 1997, the lower deck carries both rail and traffic, with the lack of diagonal members in the cross section allowing vehicles to drive through the openings provided by the Vierendeel design.

Walter Scheel

Walter Scheel (German pronunciation: [ˈvaltɐ ˈʃeːl]; 8 July 1919 – 24 August 2016) was a German politician. A member of the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP), he first served in government as Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development from 1961–66. He led the FDP from 1968–74.

During the Chancellorship of Willy Brandt, Scheel was Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice Chancellor. Scheel became Acting Chancellor of West Germany from 7–16 May 1974 following Brandt's resignation after the Guillaume Affair. He was elected shortly after as President, remaining in the role until 1979. Scheel was a member of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

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