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Otto Graf Lambsdorff

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Otto Graf Lambsdorff
Lambsdorff in 1978
Federal Minister of Economics
In office
7 October 1977 – 17 September 1982
Preceded byHans Friderichs
Succeeded byManfred Lahnstein
In office
4 October 1982 – 24 June 1984
Preceded byManfred Lahnstein
Succeeded byMartin Bangemann
Chairman of the FDP
In office
Preceded byMartin Bangemann
Succeeded byKlaus Kinkel
Member of the Bundestag
In office
13 December 1972 – 26 October 1998
Personal details
Otto Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von der Wenge Graf Lambsdorff

(1926-12-20)20 December 1926
Aachen, Weimar Germany
Died5 December 2009(2009-12-05) (aged 82)
Bonn, Germany
Political partyFDP
Spouse(s)Renate Lepper (1953–1975)
Alexandra von Quistorp (1975–2009)
Alma materUniversity of Bonn
University of Cologne

Otto Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr[1] von der Wenge Graf[2] Lambsdorff, known as Otto Graf Lambsdorff (20 December 1926 – 5 December 2009), was a German politician of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). He was the German Federal Minister of Economics from 1977 to 1984, when he resigned due to corruption allegations.

Early life and education[edit]

Lambsdorff was born in Aachen (Rhineland) to Herbert Graf Lambsdorff and Eva, née Schmidt. He attended school in Berlin and Brandenburg an der Havel and became an officer cadet in the Wehrmacht in 1944. In April 1945 he was severely wounded in an Allied strafing attack and lost his lower left leg. Lambsdorff was a prisoner of war until 1946. After World War II he passed his Abitur and studied law at the Universities of Bonn and Cologne where he obtained a PhD.

Political career[edit]

In 1951, Lambsdorff became a member of the liberal FDP, and from 1972 to 1998 he represented this party in the Federal parliament, the Bundestag.[3]

Within and outside his party he was known as a representative of the market liberals; a mocking name was der Marktgraf ("the market count", a play on Markgraf, "margrave").

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs[edit]

When Chancellor Willy Brandt made way for Helmut Schmidt in 1977, Lambsdorff was appointed West German Federal Minister of Economics in the new government and served from 1977 until 1982. He held the same office again from 1982 until 1984 in the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl after his party pulled out of the coalition with the Social Democratic Party to form a new Government with Kohl's Christian Democratic Union.

In 1987, Lambsdorff became the first West German cabinet minister to be indicted while in office[4] when he was forced to resign over allegations of corruption in the so-called Flick Affair. By January 1987, however, the prosecutor asked the court to acquit Lambsdorff of all corruption charges, including charges he accepted $50,000 between 1977 and 1980 from the Flick concern in return for granting lucrative tax waivers.[5] On 16 February 1987, he was convicted by the Bonn State Court on lesser charges, namely tax evasion on donations to political parties.[4][6][7] During the 18-month trial, he won re-election to Parliament and served as his parliamentary group's spokesman on economic matters.[8]

Chairman of the Free Democrats[edit]

Lambsdorff served as chairman of the FDP from 1988 until 1993.[9][10]

In 1991, during the Persian Gulf war, Lambsdorff joined American officials in voicing anger at the German government, accusing it of moving slowly to prevent some German companies from supplying Iraq with arms and poison gas plants.[11]

Following Hans-Dietrich Genscher's resignation, Lambsdorff and Chancellor Helmut Kohl named Irmgard Schwaetzer, a former aide to Genscher, to be the new Foreign Minister. In a surprise decision, however, a majority of the FDP parliamentary group rejected her nomination and voted instead to name Justice Minister Klaus Kinkel to head the Foreign Ministry.[12]

Life after politics[edit]

Lambsdorff in 2001

After resigning from active politics, Lambsdorff remained an advocate of free markets, becoming an active figure in the DSW shareholder action group, and regularly warned about the dangers of growing bureaucracy and tax burdens.[13] From 1993 until 2008, he served on the supervisory board of Lufthansa.[14]

In 1999 Lambsdorff was appointed as the federal envoy to the negotiations for the compensation of the victims of forced labor in Germany during World War II by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, which led to the establishment of the Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future".[15]

He also served as a member of the scientific advisory board of the Centre Against Expulsions[16] and a jury member of the Franz Werfel Human Rights Award.

Lambsdorff was honorary president of the Liberal International.[17] In this capacity, he personally delivered the World Association of Newspapers' Golden Pen of Freedom Award to Kenyan human rights activist Gitobu Imanyara in 1992, who was banned by his country's authorities from leaving the country.[18]

Political positions[edit]

The pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) had been in coalition with the social democratic SPD, but changed direction in the early 1980s.[19] Lambsdorff led the FDP to adopt the market-oriented "Kiel Theses" in 1977; it rejected the Keynesian emphasis on consumer demand, and proposed to reduce social welfare spending, and try to introduce policies to stimulate production and facilitate jobs. Lambsdorff argued that the result would be economic growth, which would itself solve both the social problems and the financial problems. As a consequence switched allegiance to the CDU, and Schmidt lost his parliamentary majority in 1982. For the only time in West Germany's history, the government fell on a vote of no confidence.[20]


The Lambsdorff family is of old Westphalian aristocratic descent, but settled for centuries in the Baltic countries[9] and was hence closely connected to Tsarist and Imperial Russia (see Baltic Germans). Lambsdorff's father served as a tsarist cadet in St. Petersburg and the former Russian foreign minister Vladimir Lambsdorff is one of his relatives.[21]

Between 2004 and 2017, his nephew Alexander Graf Lambsdorff represented the FDP in the European Parliament. He has been a member of the Bundestag since September 2017.

Lambsdorff married Renate Lepper in 1953; they had two daughters and a son. He was married to Alexandra von Quistorp from 1975 until his death on 5 December 2009. He is buried at the Stahnsdorf South-Western Cemetery near Berlin. He is survived by all three children.


Regarding personal names: Graf was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Count. Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given (Graf Helmuth James von Moltke). Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke). Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting. The feminine form is Gräfin.


  1. ^ Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a former title (translated as Baron). In Germany since 1919, it forms part of family names. The feminine forms are Freifrau and Freiin.
  2. ^ Regarding personal names: Until 1919, Graf was a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin. In Germany, it has formed part of family names since 1919.
  3. ^ "Die Mitglieder des Deutschen Bundestages - 1.-13. Wahlperiode: Alphabetisches Gesamtverzeichnis" [The members of the German Bundestag - 1st - 13th term of office: Alphabetical complete index]. webarchiv.bundestag.de (in German). Deutscher Bundestag, Verwaltung WD 3 / ZI 5. 28 February 1998. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  4. ^ a b EX-BONN AIDE GOES ON TRIAL IN PAYOFF SCANDAL New York Times, 30 August 1985.
  5. ^ Bonn Drops Bribe Case Against an Ex-Official New York Times, 28 January 1987.
  6. ^ "Otto Graf Lambsdorff before the Flick Commission (2 February 1984)". Two Germanies (1961–1989). GHDI. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
  7. ^ "Friedrich Karl Flick". Times Online – Obituaries. 7 October 2006. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
  8. ^ Serge Schmemann, (9 October 1988), Rebounding From Scandal, Ex-Official Will Lead Bonn's 3d Party New York Times.
  9. ^ a b Obituary in Die Welt (in German)
  10. ^ Official Biography (in German)
  11. ^ Dennis Hevesi (8 December 2009), Otto Lambsdorff Dies at 82; Shaped Nazi Victims Fund New York Times.
  12. ^ Stephen Kinzer (29 April 1992), Party in Bonn Rebels on Genscher's Successor New York Times.
  13. ^ Gerrit Wiesmann (7 December 2009), Political lion who helped shape Germany Financial Times.
  14. ^ Lambsdorff rückt in LH-Aufsichtsrat Der Spiegel, 10 May 1993.
  15. ^ Spiegel (in German)
  16. ^ "Scientific Advisory Panel". ZGV. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  17. ^ "In Memoriam: Otto Graf Lambsdorff". Liberal International Newsletter (164). Archived from the original on 24 July 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  18. ^ Gitobu Imanyara (1991) Archived 9 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Karl H. Cerny, Germany at the polls: the Bundestag elections of the 1980s (1990) p. 113
  20. ^ Frank B. Tipton, A History of Modern Germany since 1815 (2003) 596-99
  21. ^ Zeit, "Ritter der liberalen Sache" (in German)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by President of the Liberal International
Succeeded by
Civic offices
Preceded by European Group Chairman of the Trilateral Commission
Succeeded by