Kai-Uwe von Hassel
Under the leadership of Kai-Uwe von Hassel the build-up and gradual consolidation of the German Armed Forces continued. In addition to that, the Bundeswehr conducted first humanitarian assistance operations, which have since become a tradition.
Kai-Uwe von Hassel was born on 21 April 1913 in the former colony German East Africa, now Tanzania. His family was expelled from there as a result of the First World War.
In the period between the World Wars, von Hassel was trained as a plantation manager in Schleswig Holstein.
>Prior to the Second World War he tried in vain to gain a foothold again in his native Africa. He returned to Schleswig Holstein from a British prisoner-of-war camp in 1945.
There, von Hassel joined the newly founded CDU (Christian Democratic Union) and began his career as a politician. In 1954 he became Premier of his state and took over the difficult task of integrating the numerous displaced persons into the local population.
On 11 December 1962, von Hassel succeeded Franz Josef Strauß, who resigned from office, as Federal Minister of Defence. During his term in office the Bundeswehr gradually consolidated itself and received its first German-made weapon systems such as the Leopard 1 main battle tank.
In August 1966, the Chief of Staff, Bundeswehr, General Heinz Trettner resigned in protest against a ministerial directive which, among other things, granted trade unions the right to become active in barracks.
The evolving Starfighter crisis, which resulted from the numerous crashes of this type of aircraft purchased from the US, put further pressure on the Minister. Von Hassel also had to cope with a tragic blow of fate when his son Joachim died in a Starfighter crash.
However, the Bundeswehr's first successful humanitarian assistance operations such as the earthquake relief operation in Algeria also took place during von Hassels term in office. When the SPD and CDU/CSU parties formed the Great Coalition in 1966, he became Federal Minister for Displaced Persons.
From 1969 to 1972 he held the office of Federal President and gained wide political recognition across all parties.
In the last few years on the political stage von Hassel was mainly active in European politics, e.g. as a member of the European Parliament. Kai-Uwe von Hassel died at the age of 84 during the Charlemagne Award ceremony in the Aachen city hall in 1997.