Franz Josef Strauss

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Franz Josef Strauss
Franz Josef Strauß 1982.jpg
Strauss in 1982
Minister President of Bavaria
In office
6 November 1978 – 3 October 1988
Preceded by Alfons Goppel
Succeeded by Max Streibl
Federal Minister of Finance
In office
2 December 1966 – 22 October 1969
Preceded by Kurt Schmücker
Succeeded by Alex Möller
Federal Minister of Defence
In office
16 October 1956 – 16 December 1962
Preceded by Theodor Blank
Succeeded by Kai-Uwe von Hassel
Federal Minister for Atomic Affairs
In office
21 October 1955 – 16 October 1956
Succeeded by Siegfried Balke
Federal Minister for Special Affairs
In office
1953–1955
Personal details
Born (1915-09-06)6 September 1915
Munich
Died 3 October 1988(1988-10-03) (aged 73)
Regensburg
Nationality German
Political party CSU
Spouse(s) Marianne Zwicknagl
Children Max Josef
Franz Georg
Monika
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature

Franz Josef Strauss (German: Franz Josef Strauß, IPA: [ˈfʁants ˈjoːzɛf ˈʃtʁaʊs]; 6 September 1915 – 3 October 1988) was a German politician. He was the chairman of the Christian Social Union, member of the federal cabinet in different positions and long-time minister-president of the state of Bavaria.

During his political career Strauss was a controversial figure. In 1945 he was translator and right hand to First Lieutnant in the American military secret service CIC, Ernest F. Hauser.[1] As a younger man, he served in several positions in the federal cabinet, and had some brushes with scandal during this time: the Spiegel scandal after Strauss had the editor-in-chief of a news magazine jailed for 103 days under false pretenses, as well as the Lockheed bribery scandals after a Lockheed lobbyist stated that the corporation had bribed Strauss to the tune of $10 million to obtain a defence contract for the F-104G Starfighters in 1961.

After the 1969 federal elections, West Germany's conservative alliance found itself out of power for the first time since the founding of the Federal Republic. At this time, Strauss became more identified with the regional politics of Bavaria. While he ran for the chancellorship as the candidate of the CDU/CSU in 1980, for the rest of his life Strauss never again held federal office. From 1978 until his death in 1988, he was the head of the Bavarian government.

His last two decades were also marked by a fierce rivalry with CDU chairman Helmut Kohl.

Early years[edit]

Born in Munich, as the second child of a butcher, Strauss studied German letters, history and economics at the University of Munich from 1935 to 1939. In World War II, he served in the German Wehrmacht on the Western and Eastern Fronts. While on furlough, he passed the German state exams to become a teacher. After suffering from severe frostbite on the Eastern Front in early 1943, he served as an Offizier für wehrgeistige Führung (Nationalsozialistischer Führungsoffizier (NSFO), political officer) at the antiaircraft artillery school in Altenstadt Air Base, near Schongau. He held the rank of Oberleutnant at the end of the war. In 1945 he served as translator for the US army and especially for Ernest F. Hauser, who was first lieutenant in CIC military intelligence.[2] He called himself Franz Strauss until soon after the war when he started using his middle name Josef as well.[3]

Franz Josef Strauss, Portrait by Günter Rittner 1975

Family[edit]

Strauss married Marianne Zwicknagl in 1957. They had three children: Max Josef, Franz Georg, and Monika, who was member of the Landtag of Bavaria and a Bavarian minister. In 2009 she was elected to the European Parliament.

Political life[edit]

After the war, he was appointed deputy Landrat (county president) of Schongau by the American occupiers and was involved in founding the local party organization of the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU). He became a member of the first Bundestag (Federal Parliament) in 1949 and, in 1953, Federal Minister for Special Affairs in the second cabinet of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, in 1955 Federal Minister of Nuclear Energy, and in 1956 defence minister, charged with the build-up of the new Bundeswehr – the youngest man to hold this office at the time. He became chairman of the CSU in 1961.

Lockheed bribery scandals[edit]

Former Lockheed lobbyist Ernest Hauser told Senate investigators that Minister of Defence Strauss and his party had received at least $10 million for West Germany's purchase of 900 F-104G Starfighters in 1961, which later became part of the Lockheed bribery scandals. The party and its leader denied the allegations, and Strauss filed a slander suit against Hauser. As the allegations were not corroborated, the issue was dropped.[4]

Spiegel scandal[edit]

Strauss was forced to step down as defence minister in 1962 in the wake of the Spiegel scandal. Rudolf Augstein, owner and editor-in-chief of the influential Der Spiegel magazine, had been arrested on Strauss's request and was held for 103 days. Strauss was forced to admit that he had lied to the parliament and was forced to resign, complaining that he was treated like a "Jew who had dared appear at a Nazi party convention".

Rivalry between Kohl and Strauss[edit]

Strauss was appointed minister of the treasury again in 1966, in the cabinet of Kurt Georg Kiesinger. In cooperation with the SPD minister for economy, Karl Schiller, he developed a groundbreaking economic stability policy; the two ministers, quite unlike in physical appearance and political background, were popularly dubbed Plisch und Plum, after two dogs in a 19th-century cartoon by Wilhelm Busch.

After the SPD was able to form a government without the conservatives, in 1969, Strauss became one of the most vocal critics of Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik. After Helmut Kohl's first run for chancellor in 1976 failed, Strauss cancelled the alliance between the CDU and CSU parties in the Bundestag, a decision which he only took back months later when the CDU threatened to extend their party to Bavaria (where the CSU holds a political monopoly for the conservatives). In the 1980 federal election, the CDU/CSU opted to put forward Strauss as their candidate for chancellor. Strauss had continued to be critical of Kohl's leadership, so providing Strauss a shot at the chancellery may have been seen as an endorsement of either Strauss' policies or style (or both) over Kohl's. But many, if not most, observers at the time believed that the CDU had concluded that Helmut Schmidt's SPD was likely unbeatable in 1980, and felt that they had nothing to lose in running Strauss. Schmidt's victory was seen by Kohl's supporters as a vindication of their man, and though the rivalry between Kohl and Strauss persisted for years, once the CDU/CSU was able to take power in 1982, it was Kohl who became Chancellor. He remained in power well beyond Strauss's death.

United States of Europe[edit]

Strauss was the author of a book called The Grand Design in which he set forth his views of the way in which the future unification of Europe should be decided. There is much evidence that he was truly committed to the creation of a United States of Europe.[5]

Airbus[edit]

As an aerospace enthusiast, Strauss was one of the driving persons to create Airbus in the 1970s. He served as Chairman of Airbus[6] in the late 1980s, until his death in 1988; he saw the company win a lucrative but controversial (see Airbus affair) contract to supply planes to Air Canada just before his death. Munich's new airport, the Franz Josef Strauss Airport, was named after him in 1992.

Strauss addressing the CDU in 1986, two years before his death

Final decade of life[edit]

From 1978 until his death in 1988, Strauss was minister-president of Bavaria, serving as President of the Bundesrat in 1983/84. After his defeat in the 1980 federal election, he retreated to commenting on federal politics from Bavaria. In the following years, he was the most visible critic of Kohl's politics in his own political camp, even after Kohl ascended to the Chancellorship. In 1983, he was primarily responsible for a loan of 3 billion Deutsche Mark given to East Germany. This move, in violation of longtime CSU/CDU policy to allow the East German economy to collapse naturally, was widely criticised even during Strauss's lifetime. The Republicans split from the CSU/CDU over this move.

Visit to Albania[edit]

Strauss visited communist Albania on 21 August 1984, while Enver Hoxha, the ruler from the end of World War II until his death in 1985, was still alive. Strauss was one of the few Western leaders, if not the only one, to visit the isolationist Albania in decades. This fuelled speculation that Strauss might be preparing the way for diplomatic links between Albania and West Germany and indeed, relations were established in 1987.

Death[edit]

On 1 October 1988, Strauss collapsed while hunting with Johannes, 11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis in the Thurn and Taxis forests, east of Regensburg. He died in a Regensburg hospital on 3 October without having regained consciousness.

Legacy[edit]

Strauss shaped post-war Germany and polarized the public like few others. He was a vocal figurehead for conservatives and a skilled rhetorician. His clearly right-leaning political standpoints and his involvement in several large-scale scandals made him an opponent of more moderate politicians and the entire political left. Nevertheless, it is seldom disputed that his policies have contributed to change Bavaria from an agrarian state to one of Germany's leading industry centers.

References[edit]

  • Franz Josef Strauss. The Grand Design: A European solution to German reunification. English translation: London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Engelmann, Bernt, Ein Lesebuch. Verlag der Nation, 1986
  2. ^ Bernt Engelmann 1986: "Ein Lesebuch", ISBN 3-373-00091-2 , Kapitel "Wer war Franz Josef Strauß", p 145ff
  3. ^ FAQ Franz Josef Strauss from the Hanns Seidel Foundation (German)
  4. ^ "SCANDALS: The Lockheed Mystery (Contd.)". Time magazine. 1976-09-13. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  5. ^ Beatrice Heuser, "The European Dream of Franz Josef Strauss", in Journal of European Integration History Vol. 3 No. 1 (Spring 1998).
  6. ^ Airbus Corporate Information - The Airbus story

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Theodor Blank
Federal Minister of Defence (Germany)
1956 – 1963
Succeeded by
Kai-Uwe von Hassel
Preceded by
Kurt Schmücker (CDU)
German Minister of Finance
1966–1969
Succeeded by
Alexander Möller (SPD)
Preceded by
Alfons Goppel
Minister-President of Bavaria
1978–1988
Succeeded by
Max Streibl