Gerhard Schröder ranks among the most important politicians of the fledgling Federal Republic of Germany. Starting in 1953, he was a member of various governments for sixteen years, and held offices as Minister of the Interior, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence.
Dr. Gerhard Schröder (Source: Bundeswehr)Größere Abbildung anzeigen
Gerhard Schröder was born on 11 September 1910 in Saarbrücken. After attaining the Abitur (German university entrance qualification) he started studying the law and completed his studies with a doctorate in 1933.
When the Second World War began, Schröder was drafted into the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) and was taken prisoner-of-war when the war ended. After his release from a prisoner-of-war camp he became one of the founding fathers of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
In 1949, he was elected as a member of the Bundestag (Lower House of Parliament), and four years later Chancellor Konrad Adenauer appointed him Federal Minister of the Interior.
After Heinrich von Brentano left office in 1961, Schröder took over the helm of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When the Great Coalition was formed, Willy Brandt was appointed Foreign Minister and Schröder switched over to the Ministry of Defence on 1 December 1966.
While his term in office as Foreign Minister was marked by the resolute defence against communism, he enforced the realignment of the Bundeswehr in accordance with NATO's flexible response strategy from 1968 onwards. In contrast to massive retaliation it provided for flexible political and military response to a potential threat by the Warsaw Pact.
Despite the evolving Vietnam War, Schröder considered close cooperation with the US to be indispensable for German security policy. During his term in office, the first parliamentary state secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Eduard Adorno (CDU) was sworn in.
In 1969, Schröder was the first Minister of Defence to publish a "White Paper on the Security of the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of the Bundeswehr".
After an unsuccessful run for the office of Federal President, Gerhard Schröder also left the Federal Government when the Great Coalition came to an end in 1969.
In the 1970s, Schröder continued to be active in politics, in particular as a member of the Bundestag, where he was chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee until 1980.
Gerhard Schröder died in Kampen on the island of Sylt on 31 December 1989.