Walter Scheel

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Walter Scheel
Walter Scheel 1971.jpg
Walter Scheel in 1971
President of the Federal Republic of Germany
In office
1 July 1974 – 30 June 1979
Chancellor Helmut Schmidt
Preceded by Gustav Heinemann
Succeeded by Karl Carstens
Acting Chancellor of Germany
In office
7 May 1974 – 16 May 1974
Preceded by Willy Brandt
Succeeded by Helmut Schmidt
Vice Chancellor of Germany
In office
21 October 1969 – 16 May 1974
Chancellor Willy Brandt
Preceded by Willy Brandt
Succeeded by Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany
In office
21 October 1969 – 16 May 1974
Chancellor Willy Brandt
Preceded by Willy Brandt
Succeeded by Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Personal details
Born (1919-07-08)8 July 1919
Solingen, Weimar Republic
Died 24 August 2016(2016-08-24) (aged 97)
Bad Krozingen, Germany
Political party Free Democratic Party
Other political
Nazi Party (1942–1945)
Spouse(s) Eva Charlotte Kronenberg
(m. 1942–66)
Mildred Wirtz
(m. 1969–85)
Barbara Wiese
(m. 1988–2016)[1]
Children 4
Religion Lutheran

Walter Scheel (German pronunciation: [ˈvaltɐ ˈʃeːl]; 8 July 1919 – 24 August 2016) was a German politician. A member of the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP), he first served in government as Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development from 1961 to 1966. He led the FDP from 1968 to 1974.

During the Chancellorship of Willy Brandt, Scheel was Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor. Scheel became acting Chancellor of West Germany from 7 to 16 May 1974 following Brandt's resignation after the Guillaume Affair. He was elected shortly after as President of West Germany, remaining in the role until 1979.

Early life[edit]

Scheel was born in Solingen (now in North Rhine-Westphalia). He completed his abitur at the Reformrealgymnsasium Schwertstraße.[2] During World War II, he served in the Luftwaffe, in the last years of the war as a radar operator on a Bf 110 night fighter with the III/NJG1, with "Nachtjäger" ace Martin Drewes.[citation needed] Scheel became a member of the Nazi party in 1942.[3]

Political career[edit]

When his Free Democratic Party reentered government in a coalition with Konrad Adenauer's Christian Democratic Union in 1961, Scheel was appointed federal minister of economic cooperation and development. He continued in that office under Chancellor Ludwig Erhard but brought about the downfall of the latter in late 1966 by resigning. A Christian Democratic/Social Democratic Grand Coalition followed. During this time, in 1968, Scheel took over the party presidency from right wing liberal Erich Mende. According to one study, the election of Walter Scheel to the FDP leadership in 1968 “represented a turn to the left and the Free Democrats then indicated their wooing of the SPD by voting for the successful Social Democratic candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, Gustav Heinemann, in 1969.”[4][page needed]

In 1969, he led his party to form a new coalition with the Social Democrats. Under Chancellor Willy Brandt, Scheel became Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor. Under their leadership, West Germany pursued a course of rapprochement and détente with the Soviet block and officially recognized the existence of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). This policy caused a massive public debate, with various Free and Social Democrats switching sides to the opposition. Though an attempt to oust Brandt failed, the coalition had lost its slender majority. The parliamentary stalemate was ended by the dissolution of parliament and early elections in 1972, which brought great gains to the Social Democrats and enabled the coalition to continue. Henry Kissinger believed he was "an idiot" and a "bad" foreign minister.[5]

On 7 May 1974, Brandt resigned as Chancellor after one of his aides, Günter Guillaume, was arrested as a spy for the East German state. Though this had been internally suspected since 1973, Brandt accepted responsibility and resigned. Scheel, as acting chancellor, chaired the government meetings for a little over a week,[citation needed] until Helmut Schmidt was elected. Hans Dietrich Genscher became Scheel's successor as party chairman and as minister.

Scheel was elected President of West Germany, a week after relinquishing his other government roles. He held the office from July 1974 until June 1979. At the funeral of Hanns Martin Schleyer in October 1977, Scheel gave a speech entitled shame.[citation needed]

After the federal presidency, Scheel was Chairman of the Bilderberg Conference as well as President of the European Movement in Germany from 1980 to 1985.[6][full citation needed] From 1980 to 1989 he was also President of the German section of the Union of European Federalists (UEF). He was named honorary chairman of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in 1991.[citation needed]

Scheel was a member of the Evangelical Church in Germany.


Scheel died on 24 August 2016, at age 97, following a long illness.[7][8]



  • Hans-Dietrich Genscher (Hrsg.): Heiterkeit und Härte: Walter Scheel in seinen Reden und im Urteil von Zeitgenossen. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-421-06218-8.
  • Hans-Roderich Schneider: Präsident des Ausgleichs. Bundespräsident Walter Scheel. Ein liberaler Politiker. Verlag Bonn aktuell, Stuttgart 1975, ISBN 3-87959-045-1.


  1. ^ "Walter Scheel (1974–1979)". German Federal Presidency. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Lohausen, Carsten (28 September 2013). "Aus Höhscheid in die Geschichtsbücher". Rheinische Post (in German). Retrieved 21 February 2016. 
  3. ^ Geschichte und Politik in den Reden der deutschen Bundespräsidenten 1949-1984, Matthias Rensing,p. 152
  4. ^ Childs, David; Johnson, Jeffrey (1981). West Germany, politics and society. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0312863005. 
  5. ^ File:Nixon, Kissinger, George Shultz, William Simon - February 9, 1974(Gerald Ford Library)(1552661).pdf, pg. 4
  6. ^ Mittag 2009: 29
  7. ^ "Früherer Bundespräsident (1974-1979): Walter Scheel ist tot". SPIEGEL ONLINE (in German). Retrieved 24 August 2016. 
  8. ^ "Ehemaliger Bundespräsident Walter Scheel ist tot". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 24 August 2016. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Gustav Heinemann
President of West Germany
Succeeded by
Karl Carstens
Preceded by
Willy Brandt
Foreign Minister of West Germany
Succeeded by
Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Preceded by
Willy Brandt
Vice-Chancellor of West Germany
Succeeded by
Hans-Dietrich Genscher