Elly Heuss-Knapp

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Elly Heuss-Knapp with her husband Theodor Heuss (1950)

Elisabeth Eleonore Anna Justine "Elly" Heuss-Knapp, née Knapp (born January 25, 1881 in Strasbourg; died July 19, 1952 in Bonn), was a German liberal politician, author and wife of Theodor Heuss—from 1908 until her death. She was the founder of the Müttergenesungswerk (the Elly Heuss-Knapp Foundation), which is named in her honour, as well a co-founder and Vice President of the European Movement in Germany. She also served as a Member of Parliament of the state of Württemberg-Baden (1946–1949).


Elly Knapp was the daughter of the renowned economist Georg Friedrich Knapp (1842–1926), the founder of the chartalist school of monetary theory, who taught at the University of Strasbourg. Her mother Lydia Qorghanashvili, who was from Georgia, became mentally ill shortly after her birth, and Elly and her sister Marianne were raised by their father alone, uncommon at the time.

She studied to become a teacher, taking the exam in 1899, and worked as a teacher at a girl's school in Strasbourg from 1900, of which she was one of the co-founders. She early became politically influenced by Friedrich Naumann, a prominent liberal, and in 1905, she went on to study economics, and became a frequent public speaker on political issues. In 1908, she married then-journalist Theodor Heuss, an assistant to Friedrich Naumann. The wedding was presided over by Albert Schweitzer. Their only son, Ernst Ludwig Heuss, was born in 1910. Due to complications during that birth (which was nearly fatal for Elly), she could not have more children.

From 1922, she became more interested in theological questions and became active in the Protestant congregation of Otto Dibelius.

During the period of Nazi rule, she was forbidden to speak publicly, and her husband was fired from his job at a university. Their home became a meeting place of people opposed to the regime, including Martin Niemöller. Elly Heuss-Knapp became an author and worked in advertising to support her family. Her autobiography, Ausblick vom Münsterturm, was published in 1934, and a second edition in 1952. Heuss-Knapp and her husband lived in Heidelberg in the final stage of the Second World War.

From 1946 to 1949, she was elected a Member of Parliament of the state of Württemberg-Baden, as a representative of the liberal Demokratische Volkspartei (DVP) and later the Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP). Her work as a politician concentrated on child care and social policy in general.

Both Elly Heuss-Knapp and her husband had been candidates for the liberal Deutsche Demokratische Partei in the German election, 1919.

Together with her husband, Elly Heuss-Knapp was one of the co-founders of the European Movement in Germany in June, 1949, and was Vice President of the organisation.

She also founded the Müttergenesungswerk, which was later named Elly Heuss-Knapp-Stiftung Deutsches Müttergenesungswerk in her honour.

Elly Heuss-Knapp died in 1952 at the university clinic in Bonn, and was buried at the Waldfriedhof Stuttgart.


  • Elly Heuss-Knapp: Bürgerkunde und Volkswirtschaftslehre für Frauen (1910).
  • Elly Heuss-Knapp: Schmale Wege, Verlag Wunderlich, 1946
  • Georg Friedrich Knapp, Elly Heuss-Knapp: Eine Jugend. Deutsche Verl.-Anst.; Auflage: 2., erw. Aufl. (1947)
  • Elly Heuss-Knapp: Ausblick vom Münsterturm. Erinnerungen. Verlag R. Wunderlich, Tübingen 1984, ISBN 3-8052-0086-2
  • Elly Heuss-Knapp, Margarethe Vater: Bürgerin zweier Welten . Verlag Wunderlich, 1961

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