Franz Josef Strauß
There are not many Germans who have so decisively shaped the post-war history of the Federal Republic of Germany as Franz Josef Strauß. He was one of the most famous public figures of his time.
Born on 15 September 1915 in Munich, Bavaria, Strauß studied the classics and history at the University of Munich. He was also an avid cyclist and won the southern German road cycling championships in 1934.
Strauß was drafted into military service at the beginning of the war. During leaves from the front he succeeded in taking the state examination for grammar school teachers with a grade of 1.1, the best result ever in Bavaria since 1910.
From the start, Franz Josef Strauß took part in the foundation of the CSU, the Christian Social Union. In 1948, he was elected secretary general of his party and became a member the Bundestag (the Lower House of Parliament) one year later.
On the federal level, people first noticed Strauß when he engaged in a battle of words during the parliamentary debate over the draft for a European Defence Union with Fritz Erler, who was then the foreign policy spokesman of the SPD.
In 1953, Strauß became Minister for Special Affairs in the Federal Government and two years later he took over the newly established Ministry of Nuclear Energy. On 16 October 1956, he succeeded Theodor Blank as Minister of Defence.
Now he was responsible for the further build-up of the fledgling Bundeswehr. Personnel strength of the Army, for example, increased from 148,000 in 1959 to 305,000 in 1965. At the same time, the first ships built in Germany were commissioned for the German Navy.
In the early 1960s, however, Strauß was involved in some scandals, which were mostly publicised by "Der Spiegel". In the so-called "Spiegel Affair" he was accused of having provided false information to the Bundestag, so that he had to resign from office in 1962.
However, Strauß continued to hold his chairmanship of the CSU and in the time of the Great Coalition again became a Federal Minister.
In 1978 Franz Josef Strauß was elected Bavarian Premier. He was to hold this office until he died. In 1980, he entered the race for Federal Chancellor, but was defeated in the elections by Helmut Schmidt.
Franz Josef Strauß died on 3 October 1988 in Regensburg at a time when he still held his office as Bavarian Premier.