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Useful Notes / The Chancellors of Germany

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The Chancellor is the most prominent figure in Germany's central state since 1871, being its chief of government. Titles called "Chancellor" (Kanzler) go way back however — the Carolingian Empire and the Holy Roman Empire had positions called "Archchancellor" (Erzkanzler). After the end of The Napoleonic Wars, Prussia and Austria had State Chancellors (Staatskanzler).

The North German Confederation (which was the prototype of the empire; it even had the same flag) had a Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) between 1867 and 1871, who was, of course, Otto von Bismarck.

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Imperial Germany (1871-1918)

In the German Empire, the Imperial Chancellor (Reichskanzler) was appointed by the Emperor (Kaiser). The parliament (Reichstag) could do jack shit about it and was mostly there to argue about the budget or wait for the chancellor to initiate a bill (which they couldn't do themselves). The Reichskanzler was technically a one-man administration, who appointed secretaries to assist him. Today, all of the chancellors of the German Empire are rather obscure outside of historical buff circles. Except for Bismarck, of course.

    Otto von Bismarck
  • Otto von Bismarck (1871-1890) — Nicknamed "Der eiserne Kanzler" ("The Iron Chancellor"). Most famous for his Realpolitik that led to the unification of Germany (minus Austria), the creation of the welfare statenote  and his complex system of alliances to keep the peace in Europe by isolating France and being allies or neutral with all other powers. Most infamous for censorship laws, the anti-socialist law, and weakening the democratic organs of the German Empire via the constitution he wrote, a culture war against the Catholic church (Kulturkampf - struggle about culture), and his complex system of alliances to keep the peace in Europe. He opposed German colonialism, but ended up getting colonies for Germany anyway. Emperor Wilhelm I mostly let Bismarck do whatever he wanted. Wilhelm II however, wanted to govern the country himself and forced Bismarck to resign after several disagreements over social reforms and anti-socialist laws. During his retirement, Bismarck warned the Emperor several times that his foreign policy would lead to war—and not the "good" kind where Germany wins quickly with minimal losses. He famously predicted both the trigger of World War I ("some damned silly thing in the Balkans") as well as the year it broke out. In 2003, he was voted 9th greatest German of all time.

    Leo von Caprivi
  • Leo von Caprivi (1890-1894) — Or, to give his full name, Georg Leo von Caprivi de Caprera de Montecuccoli, who was made a count in 1891. This former general, who also had been the head of the German navy from 1883 to 1888, had the thankless job of being Bismarck's successor, against whom almost anyone would've compared unfavorably. He began the implementation of Wilhelm II's "New Course" into German policy: Social reforms, more free trade and a pro-British foreign policy. The latter included giving up the good relations with Russia, since he himself admitted that he wasn't effective enough to maintain Bismarck's complex foreign policy based on secret treaties. He finished the negotiations for the Zanzibar treaty, which traded land between Germany and the British Empire. The widely believed interpretation that Germany traded Zanzibar for Heligoland is only half true. In fact, Germany let the British have free reign in Zanzibar (Germany had never owned or claimed it) and Britain gave Heligoland to Germany - overall no bad deal as Heligoland is still German and Zanzibar is not British any more. A strip of land in Namibia is still named after him.

    Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst
  • Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (1894-1900) — Elderly (he was already 75 in 1894) former prime minister of Bavaria and diplomat. He finished the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB), the first civil code for all of Germany, which is still in force today. The BGB is widely regarded as a masterwork of civil law and several countries wholly or partly modeled theirs after it, most notably Japan, which at the time had a major Foreign Culture Fetish for all things Prussian.

    Bernhard von Bülow
  • Bernhard von Bülow (1900-1909) — Had already been something of a "shadow chancellor" during the later years of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst. His ill-thought foreign policy poisoned the relations with Britain, which led to the creation of the Entente between Britain and France. With his statements of support of Austria-Hungary regarding the Balkans (Nibelungentreue) he helped laying the foundation for World War I. Critics claimed he was so slimy "compared to him, an eel is like a hedgehog!" The Daily Telegraph Affair (when Wilhelm II gave an ill-advised interview) destroyed his relationship with the Emperor and he had to resign. His posthumously published memoirs were so blatantly self-serving that the ex-Kaiser said Bülow was the only man he'd known who had died and then committed suicide.

    Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg
  • Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1909-1917) — His pre-WWI foreign policy was geared towards improving Germany's relations with Britain and he attempted to reform Prussia's classist election system. He failed at both, and his influence on the Emperor was more and more eclipsed by that of the military. Trying to find compromises between the left and right wings of the Reichstag only earned him the loathing of both sides. The opinion of historians about him are mixed, especially about his role in the war and its outbreak. Before the war, the Reichstag tried to depose him through a vote of no confidence - even though the constitution did not provide for any such measure. The Kaiser stuck with him and that was that. His failed attempts to reach a peace with the Entente earned him the hate of generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff and they forced him to resign.

    Georg Michaelis
  • Georg Michaelis (1917) — "Georg who?" The obscure Prussian official Michaelis was pushed into office by the German High Command. He managed to turn the entire Reichstag against him after just five days in office and quickly noticed, that whatever makes a good chancellor, he didn't have it.

    Georg von Hertling

    Prince Maximilian of Baden
  • Prince Maximilian "Max" of Baden (1918) — Hastily appointed when Germany needed a head of government with the support of the Reichstag and whom the Entente would negotiate with. He fired Ludendorff, ended the U-boat war, sued for peace and declared the abdication of Wilhelm II. He resigned on first day of the November Revolution, which ended the German Empire.

Revolutionary Period (1918-1919) note 

    Friedrich Ebert
  • Friedrich Ebert (1918) — Social Democrat. He was proclaimed chancellor by Maximilian of Baden on the first day of the revolution without being asked beforehand. This was an attempt to "parliamentarize" the revolution, but the following day a revolutionary government, the Rat der Volksbeauftragten (Council of the People's Representatives) was instituted. This consisted of three representatives of the Majority Social Democrats and three Independent Social Democrats under the joint presidency of Ebert and Independent Social Democrat Hugo Haase. After the bloody suppression of the Spartakus rising, the Independent Social Democrats left the Council in protest and Haase was replaced as Ebert's colleague by Majority Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann on 29 December 1918. The two oversaw the transition from the German Empire to the Weimar Republic, the beginning of the demobilisation and prevented a Bolshevist revolution with military force. Today, Ebert is more remembered for being the first President of the Weimar Republic.

Weimar Republic (1919-1933)

In the Weimar Republic, which officially still called itself Deutsches Reich (German Empire), the Chancellor (Reichskanzler) and all ministers were appointed by the President (Reichspräsident; the "Ersatzkaiser"), but could be voted out of office by the lower house (Reichstag) with a simple majority. The Reichskanzler was a weaker figure than under the monarchy, as his ministers were not bound to follow any of his orders and the cabinet could overturn his decisions by majoritiy vote. Officially the head of the government only was called Reichskanzler since August 14, 1919; from February 1919 up until his official title was that of the Reichsministerpräsident.

The Weimar Republic was an unstable political clusterfuck of epic proportions with 21 administrations under 12 chancellors in only 14 years. The weakness of many Weimar governments stemmed from the use of Proportional Representation, which forced many parties into weak coalitions and allowed the extremists to have a much greater influence, and the fact that the President could remove and appoint new Chancellors whenever it suited him. Furthermore, the political right was more fragmented than in the later Bonn Republic, with the Catholic Center Party having hardly any Protestant support and the rest of the conservative/liberal spectrum made up of a full range from the left liberal DDP to the staunchly anti-democratic DNVP, with the moderately monarchist DVP wedged between them. Coalitions either included left wing parties and the SPD, thus always threatened by disputes over social policy or they excluded the SPD and went further right, which always threatened unity over foreign policy as the DNVP was unwilling to give up claims to lost territory. Most of its chancellors are largely forgotten today due to their short terms and failure to make a difference. Scheidemann and Stresemann are still remembered positively. Franz von Papen is still infamous for his manipulations of the increasingly senile President Hindenburg and for his role in Hitler's rise to the office of chancellor. He was released from prison early (in 1949) and lived until 1969. Brüning is still known among economic historians for his Hoover-like approach to the Great Depression and his blatantly self-serving memoirs released after his 1970 death.

    Philipp Scheidemann
  • Philipp Scheidemann (1919) — Social Democrat. No documentary about general German history is complete without the footage of him proclaiming the republic from a balcony of the Reichstag building in 1918. The first Reichsministerpräsident opposed the Treaty of Versailles and chose to resign rather than to approve it.

    Gustav Bauer 
  • Gustav Bauer (1919-1920) — Social Democrat. Second Reichsministerpräsident and first Reichskanzler. He approved the Treaty of Versailles, but not without subtext of revenge. He lost the support of the SPD after the Kapp-Putsch and resigned.

    Hermann Müller 
  • Hermann Müller (1920) — Social Democrat. One of the German signatories of the Treaty of Versailles.

    Konstantin Fehrenbach 
  • Konstantin Fehrenbach (1920-1921) - Centre Party. He struggled with the gigantic financial demands of the Entente and had to resign when he failed to find support in the Reichstag.

    Joseph Wirth 
  • Joseph Wirth (1922) — Centre Party. His first administration resigned as a protest against the transfer of part of Upper Silesia to Poland by the Entente. He is most remembered for his famous speech after the assassination of foreign minister Walther Rathenau by right-wing extremists during his second administration: "The Enemy is to the right".

    Wilhelm Cuno 
  • Wilhelm Cuno (1922-1923) — Independent. A former director of the Hamburg-America shipping line. He too, struggled with the reparation payments. When France and Belgium occupied the Rhineland he encouraged "passive resistance" through general strikes and sabotage. This led to hyperinflation and he had to resign.

    Gustav Stresemann 
  • Gustav Stresemann (1923) — Liberal Nationalist. One of the most well remembered chancellors (though mostly for his tenure as foreign minister) of the Weimar Republic and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He ended the passive resistance in the Rhineland, reached several agreements with the Entente regarding Versailles and did a monetary reform to end the hyperinflation. The Reichstag axed him anyway. He stayed Germany's foreign minister and played an important role in successive cabinets until his death of a stroke in 1929 which left a huge gap in Germany's diplomatic relations, especially those with France. A type of formal three-piece suit is named after him.

    Wilhelm Marx 
  • Wilhelm Marx (1923-1925) — Centre Party. He stabilized the economy further and struggled with separatists sponsored by the French and Belgian occupation forces in the Palatinate and Rhineland.

    Hans Luther 
  • Hans Luther (1925-1926) — Independent. His majority in the Reichstag fell apart after he recognized the new eastern border. He was deposed later over a Flag dispute (black, red and gold vs. black, white, and red) with the newly elected president Hindenburg, an arch-conservative general revered as a WW I war hero.

    Otto Geßler 
  • Otto Geßler (1926) — Democratic Party. Six days filler chancellor.

    Wilhelm Marx 
  • Wilhelm Marx (1926-1928) — Centre Party. In his second government, he brought Germany into the League of Nations and fired General Hans von Seeckt, who had turned the Reichswehr into a "state within a state".

    Hermann Müller 
  • Hermann Müller (1928-1930) — Social Democrat. Considered the last democratic chancellor of the Weimar Republic as he was the last one to be supported by a majority in the Reichstag. His administration was toppled by a dispute over a 0.25% increase of the unemployment insurance payments.

    Heinrich Brüning 
  • Heinrich Brüning (1930-1932) — Centre Party. Together with Hindenburg, he sought to undermine the influence of the unstable Reichstag and ruled with presidential emergency decrees instead of laws under toleration by the SPD. His attempts to ease the Great Depression were a failure and the election of 1930 saw massive gains for the Nazis and Communists, which led to a massive withdrawal of foreign money from Germany. He, however, managed to have the reparation payments reduced to 3 billion goldmark (which were never paid) and banned the Nazi SS and SA. A dispute over agricultural aids with Hindenburg ended his administration. Historians views on Brüning are mixed. Brüning later wrote memoirs (he died in 1970) to extricate himself from the blame naturally laid at him (his economic policies were similar in nature and effect to those of Herbert Hoover in the US). One of the most controversial aspects of his term was the deflationary policies which on the one hand worsened the economic depression and on the other helped lead to the end of German reparations. He later said the latter was his goal all along, but it is more likely that he honestly believed cutting government spending in the worst depression in ages was a good idea.

    Franz von Papen
  • Franz von Papen (1932) — Centre Party (went independent after two days). He was installed by Schleicher, who needed someone to work Hindenburg. Schleicher openly admitted that Papen just was a figurehead. He used emergency decrees to unban the SS and SA, dissolve the Reichstag (which was once only minutes away from kicking him out) two times within the same year (which brought gains to the anti-democratic parties) and activate the Reichswehr to take over the State of Prussia with military force. Later, he tried to talk Hindenburg into a coup against the Republic, but was crossed by Schleicher. He was later marginalized by Hitler, and was tried and acquitted after the war for his involvement in Nazi crimes.

    Kurt von Schleicher
  • Kurt von Schleichernote (1932-1933) — Independent. Backstabbing Papen had earned him a powerful enemy, as Papen still had a lot of influence over Hindenburg. Schleicher struggled against the anti-democratic parties in the Reichstag and attempted to split and weaken the Nazi Party. Papen quickly ganged up with Hitler against Schleicher. This led to Hitler's appointment as chancellor through Papen's influence on Hindenburg and the end of the Weimar Republic. Schleicher was killed by the SS during the "Night of the Long Knives" in 1934.

Nazi Germany (1933-1945)

    Adolf Hitler
  • Adolf Hitler (1933-1945) — National Socialist. After being appointed, Hitler wasted no time and formed a coalition of anti-democratic/anti-communist parties, talked Hindenburg to give him more powers and used the Reichstag Fire to pass the Enabling Act (Reichsermächtigungsgesetz). In the Night of the Long Knives (aka Röhm-Putsch), Hitler's SS killed several SA competitors and drove many of his allies (including von Papen) out of politics. Upon Hindenburg's death, Hitler merged the offices of chancellor and president into one position called "(Supreme) Leader and Reich Chancellor" ("Führer und Reichskanzler"). As the years passed and the Nazis tightened their control over Germany, the trappings of parliamentary government faded away—the Cabinet met as a body for the last time in 1938, the Reichstag met for the last time in 1942, and in the later years Hitler was referred to only as Führer, with Reichskanzler being dropped. He took his own life when Berlin was conquered by the Red Army and the Führer combined government office was split back into President and Chancellor.

    Joseph Goebbels
  • Paul Joseph Goebbels (1945) — National Socialist. Nazi Germany's infamous Minister of "Public Enlightenment and Propaganda", whose name ended up a shorthand for the evils of totalitarian state propaganda. Hitler's political testament broke up the combined government office into President and Chancellor once again after his death. Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz became the new Reichspräsident, while Goebbels succeeded Hitler as Reichskanzler for a few hours before he took his own life as well (and those of his family) when Berlin was conquered by the Red Army.

    Ludwig Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
  • Johann Ludwig "Lutz" Graf Schwerin von Krosigk (1945) — National Socialist. Officially "Leading Minister of the acting Reich Government" and also foreign minister and finance minister under President Karl Dönitz. About a week in office, apart from finance minister, which he held since before Hitler's takeover. Since most of Germany was already occupied, his only significant act (as foreign minister) was to declare the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht. At the 1949 Ministries Trial (which took place in Nuremberg just like the main trials in 1945-1946), he was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His sentence was commuted in 1951.

Allied Occupation (1945-1949)

From 1945 to 1949, Germany had no Chancellor, as it was ruled directly by the occupying Allied powers (The United States, United Kingdom, France, and the USSR).

East Germany (1949-1990)

East Germany had no title of "Chancellor". For most of its existence, the most important position in the GDR was that of the General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) (titled "First Secretary" between 1953–1976). The SED and its leader held ultimate power and authority over state and government. Generally speaking the two "paramount leaders" (to borrow a term commonly used for China) that most Germans are familiar with are Walter Ulbricht (from the founding of the state to the mid 1970s) and Erich Honecker (from the fall of Ulbricht to 1989). In the tumultuous last year of the GDR, several people led the country and there were formal titles equivalent to "Prime Minister" held by people other than Ulbricht or Honecker, but those are usually only of interest to history buffs or when discussing specific events (such as when "Prime Minister" Willy Stoph hosted Willy Brandt in East Germany)

West Germany (1949-1990)

Learning from the failure of the Weimar Republic, West Germany featured a largely depowered Federal President (Bundespräsident) and a much stronger lower house.

The Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) is directly elected by the parliament (Bundestag; the lower house) and runs the country indirectly through the ministers. His/her term is bound to that of the Bundestag and automatically expires with it. The Bundeskanzler can appoint and dismiss the Ministers through the Präsident. The German Basic Law is a bit vague on the relationship between chancellor and cabinet on the one had and chancellor and parliament on the other, but the important line "Der Kanzler bestimmt die Richtlinien der Politik"note  is often seen as giving the chancellor the power of the final say over cabinet and has been interpreted very much that way by Adenauer or Schröder but interpreted as a more limited power by more collegial leaders like Erhard or Merkel. Unlike previous eras where the Kaisers and Presidents are much better known than the chancellors (save Bismarck and Hitler, of course), German chancellors from this era are Household Names while the Presidents are obscure figures. The two chancellors that were only in office for three years are somewhat less known, but Erhard is still famous for his tenure as minister of the economy. Unlike in the Weimar Republic, the chancellor cannot be sacked by the President on his own say-so and the Bundestag can only remove the chancellor by electing a new one at the same time - something which has been attempted twice and succeeded once in the history of the Bonn Republic (see below). The Bundestag can also declare with majority that they have lost confidence in the chancellor which has never genuinely happened but has been used thrice as Loophole Abuse to get the president to dissolve Parliament early.

    Konrad Adenauer
  • Konrad Adenauer (1949-1963) — Christian Democrat (i.e. Conservative). Nicknamed "Der Alte" ("The old one" - he was 73 years old in 1949 and died aged 91) and "the Fox of Rhöndorf". Won by just one vote - it is claimed, his own, but later became the only Federal Chancellor to govern without a coalition partner (from 1960 to 1961). Former Oberbürgermeister (mayor) of Cologne (since 1917) and a prominent politician of the Centre party, he had already been considered for the chancellor's office during the Weimar Republic. The Nazis destroyed his political career - and later even threw him in a concentration camp - for refusing to meet Adolf Hitler when the latter was visiting Cologne during an election campaign. Adenauer oriented Germany towards the West (Westbindung), reconciled with France and, together with Ludwig Erhard, made the economic boom (Wirtschaftswunder) possible. Together with De Gaulle, he laid the foundation for the EU. He made Bonn, a dinky town on the Rhine within commuting distance from Rhöndorf (the village where he lived), the capital, and secured the return of the last Germany POWs from the Soviet Union in 1955. He played boccia at his vacation home on Lake Como and had seven kids and even more grandkids. (Helmut Kohl isn't among them, although he called himself "Adenauer's grandson".) Feared for his sharp tongue, he did not endear himself to the Austrians when he said about their demands for reparations that he would like to send Hitler's bones in lieu of payment. Had some memorable missteps such as publicly making snide comments about Willy Brandt's illegitimate parentage on the day the Wall was built (when Brandt was mayor of West Berlin) or the melodramatic Bundestag statement "We have an abyss of treason!" at the beginning of the Spiegel affair that resulted in the resignation of his minister of defence, Franz Josef Strauß. At the time, some of his policies were very controversial, especially the Westbindung and rearmament, which were seen by his critics has obstacles to German reunification and e. g. led to his minister of the interior, Gustav Heinemann leaving his cabinet and founding his own party.note  With benefit of hindsight, many of Adenauer's policies are now seen as inevitable under the conditions of the Cold War. Adenauer has also been criticized for allowing former Nazis into important government positions too easily (the most infamous case is that of the head of the chancellor's office, Hans Globke, the author of the official legal commentary to the Nuremberg Race Laws)note , but he also did a lot to bring the settlement of Jewish recompensation claims on the road and to usher in friendly relations between Germany and Israel. In 2003, he was voted "Greatest German of all time".

    Ludwig Erhard
  • Ludwig Erhard (1963-1966) — Christian Democrat, even though he apparently never officially became a member of the party which elected him as its chairman in 1966. Nicknamed "Der Dicke" ("The fat one"), he was Adenauer's unloved successor (unloved by Adenauer, that is). Although he came from Bavaria, he did not associate with the CDU's Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union. The cigar smoking scholar is seen as the father of the social market economy (soziale Marktwirtschaft) and the economic boom in Germany. He, however, did this as Minister of Economy under Adenauer. As chancellor, Erhard improved relations with the USA and opened official diplomatic relations with Israel. The introduction of the Deutschmark is often misattributed to him, yet was ordered by the Americans. He only implemented it, though his timing was faster than expected and he had to talk himself out of trouble with General Clay (the head of the occupation forces in the Tri-Zone). As the first chancellor whose home was not in the Bonn area, he had the Kanzlerbungalow built as the official residence, which in its combination of modern architecture and small size has come to be seen as an embodiment of the modesty of the Bonn Republic. Erhard was brought down when the Free Democrats (liberals) ended the ruling coalition.

    Kurt Georg Kiesinger
  • Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1966-1969) — Christian Democrat. Nicknamed "Häuptling Silberzunge" ("Chief Silvertongue"/"Chief Sweettalker"), as he was the head of the first grand coalition with the Social Democrats and spent most of his time negotiating between the SPD and CDU/CSU. Ministerpräsident of Baden-Württemberg from 1958 to 1966. The overwhelming majority of the grand coalition, the introduction of emergency laws (Notstandsgesetze) and his past as a Nazi party member (he joined the party in 1933 and made a career as an official in the foreign ministry) made him the target of the rage of the emerging student movement.

    Willy Brandt
  • Willy Brandt (1969-1974) — Social Democrat. Born as Herbert Frahm in Lübeck, forced to flee the country (to Norway) when the Nazis came to power, for which he took Willy Brandt as his new name. His resistance to Nazism, emigration plus the fact that he was born to unmarried parents were still seen as "scandalous" enough in the early 1960s to be used as ammunition against him during his first national election campaigns. Gained international stature as Governing Mayor of (West) Berlin (1957-1966) around the time the Wall was built and then became Kiesinger's Vice-Chancellor. After the 1969 elections he headed the first West German government not to include the Christian Democrats. He was sometimes called the German Kennedy because of his youthful energy and charisma, and it later became known that he had been quite the womanizer, too - although probably not quite to the same extent as JFK. Received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for improving Germany's relations with Eastern Europe and East Germany (Neue Ostpolitik). Most remembered for his genuflection (Kniefall) at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial in Poland. Narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in 1972 after a number of Bundestag members deserted to the opposition; apparently at least two CDU members were bribed by the East German Staatssicherheit at the time. Brandt no longer had a working majority but forced a new election by deliberately losing a confidence votenote . Halfway into his second term he had to resign after one of the people working with him, Günter Guillaume, was revealed to be an East German spy. He commissioned the Brandt Report on the North-South divide and once again came to prominence as an elder statesman when the Wall fell. In 2003, he was voted the 5th greatest German of all time. While his period as chancellor can rightfully be called Short-Lived, Big Impact (he held office for all of five years, three of them with an extremely slim majority), he spent most of his time out of office as head of the SPD and later the socialist international and could see Germany reunited before dying in 1992.

    Helmut Schmidt
  • Helmut Schmidt (1974-1982, died November 10th 2015) — Social Democrat. Sometimes called "Schmidt-Schnauze" (roughly: Big mouth). A former Wehrmacht officer and academic economist (Diplomvolkswirt), he was one of the first prominent Social Democrats to take an active part in the building of the new (West) German army. Came to national attention during the 1962 storm flood in Hamburg, later served headed the ministries of defence, finances and the economy (not all at the same time) under Chancellor Brandt. He was the realist/pragmatist/cynical foil for Willy Brandt, the big idealist, which is reflected in another of his nicknames, "der Macher" (the doer or go-getter). Probably considered the most intellectual Federal Chancellor, he played the piano and the organ and had close friendships with people in the arts, most notably writer Siegfried Lenz. He ran the country during the terror of the Red Army Faction, which included the spectacular debut of special police unit GSG-9 ending the hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 181, and worked on the expansion and development of the European Union, in the process of which he developed a political and personal friendship with France's liberal conservative president Giscard d'Estaing. Schmidt was very fluent in English, at one point he held a remarkably effective speech at a British Labour Party conference to help bring that party back on course regarding Europe. At more than 90 years old, was unofficially the last man allowed to smoke on German televisionnote  and was voted the most popular German politician of recent history in 2005. The university of the Bundeswehr in Hamburg was named after him during his lifetime, something that is extremely rare in modern Germany. After his term, it was revealed that he was actually 1/4 Jewish in ancestry (due to his father being the illegimate child of a Jewish banker), something that his family had managed to hide from the Nazis (he would otherwise have faced serious discrimination and not have been able to become an army officer). Neither Schmidt nor German public ever made a big deal out of this, and most Germans today probably don't even know it.

    Helmut Kohl
  • Helmut Kohl (1982-1998, died June 16th 2017) — Christian Democrat. Former Ministerpräsident of Rhineland-Palatinate, he became chancellor through a motion of no confidence against Helmut Schmidt.note  He worked towards a Europe without borders (Schengen Treaty) and laid the foundation for the Euro. Was a favorite target for political cabaretists and caricaturists, and one popular depiction of him was "Birne" (pear). In this, he bore some semblance to Margaret Thatcher in Britain, although less for controversial policy (although there was some of that) and more for his personality — although having been a reformer in his youth, he had by the 80s adopted something of an aggressively anti-elitist and provincial style, with the prime emblem of that being his insistence that visiting heads of state be treated to Saumagen (a rustic dish that amounts to haggis, but made from pork and from his native Palatinate) when visiting Germany. He took all the criticism and mockery in stride, but was notoriously hostile to large elements of the media in turn. One aspect of his "provincial-ness" and perhaps Inferiority Complex was that while he grew up with Palatinate dialect, he made a conscious effort not to speak it during his career in federal politics - sometimes going too far the other way such as when he said "Gechichte"note . He was seen a notoriously boring and uninspiring public speaker, but very good at personal relationships - he became friends with almost every foreign leader (save Thatcher, who despised him) and kept tight control of his government and party (in which he was said to know every local functionary by name) through excessive use of the telephone. In 1989, polls showed that he would lose the next election and even his own party was on the brink of getting rid of him, but then the Wall came down. With uncharacteristic energy, he wasted no time, promised Reunification as fast as possible and garnered the support of the allies of WWII for it. This earned him two re-elections in the reunified Germany. Some say he was in favor of fast reunification mostly because it would guarantee him the eastern vote, whereas his 1990 opponent Oskar Lafontaine pointed out the huge costs of reunification - something which nobody wanted to hear at the time. Kohl himself always stressed that he had feared that the so-called "window of opportunity" for German reunification could be closed by outside events, most notably a change in Soviet leadership. Considering that there was an attempted coup against Gorbachev shortly afterwards, historians believe this to be a plausible explanation.

The Berlin Republic (1990-present)

The reunified Germany continues to use the West German system detailed above.

    Helmut Kohl 
  • Helmut Kohl (1982-1998, died June 16th 2017) — Christian Democrat. That election? The CDU/CSU won it, as the east Germans were understandably suspicious of socialism and bore a great deal of goodwill towards Kohl personally. Some SPD types actually accused him of pursuing the "reunification as quickly as possible" policy in order to stay in power — which might have been true for all we know. After the Reunification, Kohl struggled with his promises that he had made to the east Germans. The high rates of unemployment resulting from unification and the economic measures that he imposed to cope with the cost of the process ended his chancellorship after 16 years. Due to his long rule, he is sometimes called "Der ewige Kanzler" ("The eternal chancellor"). His talent to a) make friends among the mighty of the world and b) neutralize his political enemies may have helped him stay in power that long. The European Union gave him a grand funeral ceremony at the Parliament of Strasbourg after his death.

    Gerhard Schröder
  • Gerhard Schröder (1998-2005, still alive) — Social Democrat. Former head of the Young Socialists (1978-1980) and Ministerpräsident of Lower Saxony (1990-1998). Governed in a coalition with the Green party which pushed through several environmental and societal reforms and the then-controversial nuclear phase-out. Early in his career, when head of his party's youth wing, the Young Socialists, he liked to play up the far left firebrand but by the time he held important office, he had moved decidedly towards the center politically. At the beginning of his chancellorship he was very pro-American (he supported the Afghanistan warnote ), he later actively opposed the Iraq war and improved Germany's relations with France and Russia instead (most notably the controversial Baltic pipeline). Schröder did several social reforms that alienated many social democrats—his vaguely neoliberal orientation combined with his cigar-chomping ways earned him the nickname "Genosse der Bosse" ("Comrade of the Bosses"), and these policies combined with his personal charisma have led many to call him the German Tony Blair. Was widely expected to lose the 2002 election before a flood in East Germany (with his crisis-management much lauded by the press) and the debate over the Iraq War catapulted the polling figures of his party back up and narrowly kept him in office. He proved to be quite the electoral Chessmaster again in 2005: when he felt that he had lost his support in the Bundestag, he filed a motion of no confidence against himself to trigger re-elections. He then turned on the charm and campaigned like hell, managing to get the SPD's share of the vote much higher than expected and forcing a grand coalition in the next Bundestag. He could have even stayed on as Chancellor if he hadn't promised not to enter in an alliance with the Left Party. The Left party at the time was led by former social democrat Oskar Lafontaine who bore a grudge against Schröder because he felt betrayed both personally and politically by him. Also quite notorious for his love life: He divorced his third wife Hiltrud just one year before becoming chancellor and married Doris Köpf, 19 years his junior. As of 2018, he is divorced from Doris and married to South-Korean Kim So-yeon, 25 years his junior. There exists a vaguely James Bond-like photo of them that has to seen to be believed. As a result, one of his nicknames was Lord of the Rings. However, he has never been accused publicly of cheating on any of his wives. For what it's worth, his former vice chancellor Fischer is also currently in his 5th marriage and his rival Lafontaine in his 4th. Schröder's second life as a lobbyist and director for a subsidiary of Russian petroleum and gas company Gazprom and his connections to the government of Vladimir Putin came back to bite him in 2022 during the widely condemned invasion of Ukraine by Russia. On March 8, 2022, amidst the economic sanctions against Russia, Germany's Public Prosecutor General initiated proceedings related to accusations against Schröder for "complicity in crimes against humanity". Schröder was also stripped of several honors, including the honorary citizenship of his hometown of Hanover.

    Angela Merkel
  • Angela Dorothea Merkel, née Kasner (2005-2021, still alive) — Christian Democrat. First woman and first person from the former East Germany to have the job.note  She is a Doctor of Physics (her Thesis was about quantum chemistry) who moved into East German politics around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall; she was elected to the first, last, and only democratically-elected Volkskammer (parliament) of East Germany before it dissolved. Forbes lists her among the most powerful women in the world since 2006. In 2009, the Christian Democrats' traditional allies, the Free Democrats (FDP; free-market liberals) picked up enough seats to allow Merkel to shed the SPD and govern with their preferred partner; however, the FDP were completely wiped out in the 2013 elections, leaving another grand coalition the only workable alternative. As Chancellor, she is known more for being (or at least trying to be) a steady pair of hands at the helm (there are accusations that she's faltered, but some disagree), as opposed to the flashy media-genius of her predecessor. German Media tend to call her "Teflon-Merkel" (being a reactionist politician, accusations don't tend to stick, it's her ministers that fuck up usually), or "Mutti" (mommy, her party-intern nickname). Recently, Americans have been hearing her name in the news a lot, since it was revealed the American spy agencies were spying on her cell phone and her Internet searches, along with her heavy involvement in the Greek bailout negotiations. Despite an initially rough start, she managed to forge a very close working-relationship with Barack Obama, who - at the end of his presidency - called her "his closest partner". Merkel also became the West's chief negotiator with Putin over the Ukraine, together with French president Hollande she helped brokering the Minsk ceasefire agreement. In general, it has often been noted that Germany under Angela Merkel has become more proactive on the European stage, with her often been called the continents de facto leader with all its' implications. In 2015, she surprised watchers by stating that Germany would accept Syrian refugees who were stranded in Hungary, which was interpreted by many as an invitation for refugees who were not yet in Europe. As of June 2016, Germany has received 1,600,000 refugees; an action that won over many of her former critics, but also weakened her domestic support once it became clear how big of a task the integration of so many refugees would be. In the 2017 election both her own CDU and coalition partner SPD lost a lot of votes prompting the SPD to announce leaving the coalition (although it would still command a majority of seats in the Bundestag), leading to speculations about the first ever "Jamaica" coalition of FDP, CDU/CSU and Greens on the federal level. The negotiations quickly fell apart leading to another Grand Coalition, the third under chancellor Merkel and the fourth on federal level. While Helmut Kohl is often credited with "discovering" her for the federal political scene and she was often dismissed as "Kohl's Mädchen" (Kohl's girl) during the time she was in office and Kohl was alive, Kohl would often comment negatively on her politics. She announced her intention of not running again for the 2021 election (which would've allowed her to surpass Kohl's record tenure in office if she won) but the first attempt at replacing her with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at the helm of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) failed spectacularly necessitating a second round of candidate-search which ultimately ended with the rather bland and uninspiring Armin Laschet being chosen as head of the CDU and candidate for chancellor heading into the 2021 federal elections.

    Olaf Scholz
  • Olaf Scholz (2021-present) — Social Democrat. Previously served as vice chancellor to Merkel and as minister of Finance from 2018 to 2021. He was also First Mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 and deputy leader of the SPD from 2009 to 2019. His government is a "traffic light coalition" composed of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP. His rise to the chancellorship was unlikely in many ways. He was decried as an "automaton" ("Scholz-o-Mat") for his staunch dedication to the party line and - leadership above all and is not exactly charismatic or a great public speaker (but then neither were Kohl or Merkel). However, after already having been Reassigned to Antarctica he won back political power by wresting the Hamburg mayorship from the CDU - Hamburg had been a traditional "base" for the SPD but had had been in the hands of the CDU for over a decade around the turn of the millenium. He then managed to be given the candidate for chancellor job basically because no-one else wanted it and was smart enough not to quit when he lost the race for party chairperson to a more left-leaning duo. Despite all that, the SPD somehow managed to make a near-flawless electoral campaign based on providing a united front to outsiders and being boring and predictable while the other big parties (the Greens led by Annalena Baerbock and the CDU led by Armin Laschet) shot themselves in the foot. He also managed to get the "he's just like Merkel" vote (he had been an important minister in her cabinet and vice chancellor, after all) without aleniating the "we've had enough of Merkel's style" vote. Meanwhile Laschet got hit both with fatigue at 16 years of CDU rule and failed to capitalize on Merkel nostalgia, as he was seen as too unlike her. His unlikely three party coalition is similar to the 1970s and early 1980s social-liberal coalition of Brandt and Schmidt and in a sense also the Spiritual Successor to the Weimar Coalition of yore as it includes all centrist and liberal parties that broadly support the status quo and excludes the political extremes. However, it differs from the Weimar Coalition in that it doesn't include the Christian Democrat / political Catholic element nowadays represented by the CDU/CSU. The economic sanctions against Vladimir Putin's Russia for its invasion of Ukraine starting in early 2022 put Germany in a difficult position, as the country was vastly dependent on Russian natural gas (the deep collaboration built between the two countries in that field during the previous twenty years or so under Schröder and Merkel really didn't help). Nonetheless, while tending to that natural resource issue, Scholz's government responded to the invasion with financial, humanitarian and military material help to Ukraine (while initially lukewarm, it has since increased considerably), though they're still extremely coy on supplying long range weapons for fear of reprisals by Russia.

Appearances of German Chancellors note  in fiction:

  • The New Order Last Days Of Europe
    • Three real life German chancellors, Helmut Schmidt, Ludwig Erhard and Kurt Georg Kiesinger, along with Henning von Tresckow, form the Gang of Four, a circle of reformers and allies of Führer Albert Speer who aid his reformist beginnings while pursuing their own agenda for the better German Reich.
    • Meanwhile, Willy Brandt leads the anti-Nazi resistance cells in the occupied Eastern Europe and organizes the Slave Revolt against the aformentioned Führer Speer.