History of the Federal Ministry of Defence
The Blank Office in Bonn was officially renamed the Federal Ministry for Defence (later “Federal Ministry of Defence”) on 7 June 1955. The first defence minister was Theodor Blank. He had headed the office from the beginning. The Blank Office staff prepared the ground for the rearmament of West Germany.
From the Blank Office to the Federal Ministry of Defence
Key members of the Blank Office staff were Adolf Heusinger and Hans Speidel. Heusinger would later become West Germany’s first Chief of Defence, and Speidel the first Supreme Commander of the NATO Ground Forces in Central Europe. They and other generals, admirals and senior officers met in October 1950 at Himmerod Abbey, a Cistercian monastery in the Eifel region of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s security advisor had invited them to the conference at Himmerod Abbey to discuss the topic of a future West German armed force. Adenauer was convinced that armed forces were a necessary feature of state sovereignty.
The Blank Office was established in response to the changes in the world order.
The reason for which the Himmerod Abbey conference was held and the Blank Office was set up was that the world order had changed fundamentally since the end of World War II in 1945. There had been a rupture in the former alliance between the USA, the UK and France on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other. An iron curtain had descended between them, separating the democratic West from the communist East. The “Cold War” in Europe had begun. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, international calls were increasingly made for Germany to contribute to the defence of Western Europe against the hegemonic ambitions of the Communists.
The former Wehrmacht officers attending the conference drafted the “Himmerod memorandum” as a basis for rearmament. It was entitled the Memorandum on the Formation of a German Contingent for the Defence of Western Europe within the framework of an International Fighting Force.
From an office to a ministry
In October 1950, Chancellor Adenauer put Theodor Blank in charge of the practical planning for the rearmament of West Germany. Blank and his staff started work at Ermekeil Barracks in Bonn. Blank’s official title was Chancellor’s Commissioner for Questions with Regard to the Strengthening of Allied Troops.
On 7 June 1955. the Blank Office became the Federal Ministry for Defence. On 30 December 1961, the word “for” in the ministry’s title was replaced with “of” (Federal Ministry of Defence), putting it on a par with the “traditional” ministries of foreign affairs, finance, the interior, and justice.
An important step towards German rearmament was the signing of the revised Bonn-Paris conventions on 23 October 1954. This put an end to the Allied occupation of Germany and paved the way for its accession to NATO. In May 1955, the Federal Republic of Germany finally acceded to the alliance and was allowed to establish armed forces of its own.