Walter Scheel

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Walter Scheel
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1989-047-20, Walter Scheel.jpg
Scheel in 1974
President of Germany
(West Germany)
In office
1 July 1974 – 30 June 1979
ChancellorHelmut Schmidt
Preceded byGustav Heinemann
Succeeded byKarl Carstens
Acting Chancellor of Germany
(West Germany)
In office
7 May 1974 – 16 May 1974
PresidentGustav Heinemann
Preceded byWilly Brandt
Succeeded byHelmut Schmidt
Vice-Chancellor of Germany
(West Germany)
In office
21 October 1969 – 16 May 1974
ChancellorWilly Brandt
Himself (acting)
Preceded byWilly Brandt
Succeeded byHans-Dietrich Genscher
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
21 October 1969 – 16 May 1974
ChancellorWilly Brandt
Preceded byWilly Brandt
Succeeded byHans-Dietrich Genscher
Vice President of the Bundestag
(on proposal of the FDP group)
In office
8 September 1967 – 19 October 1969
Preceded byThomas Dehler
Succeeded byLiselotte Funcke
Member of the European Parliament
for West Germany
In office
1 July 1956 – 20 November 1961
Member of the Bundestag
In office
6 September 1953 – 27 June 1974
Personal details
Born(1919-07-08)8 July 1919
Höhscheid, Rhine Province, Prussia, Weimar Germany
Died24 August 2016(2016-08-24) (aged 97)
Bad Krozingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Political partyFree Democratic Party
Other political
Nazi Party (1942–1945)
Eva Charlotte Kronenberg
(m. 1942⁠–⁠1966)

Mildred Wirtz
(m. 1969⁠–⁠1985)

Barbara Wiese
(m. 1988⁠–⁠2016)

Walter Scheel (German: [ˈvaltɐ ˈʃeːl] (About this soundlisten); 8 July 1919 – 24 August 2016)[2] 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 Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice Chancellor. Scheel became Acting Chancellor of West Germany from 7–16 May 1974 following Brandt's resignation after the Guillaume Affair. He was elected shortly after as President, remaining in the role until 1979. Scheel was a member of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

Early life[edit]

Scheel was born in Solingen (now in North Rhine-Westphalia). He completed his Abitur at the Reformrealgymnsasium Schwertstraße.[3]

Scheel became a member of the Nazi Party in 1942.[4] During World War II, he served in the Luftwaffe during the last years of the war as a radar operator on a Bf 110 night fighter.[citation needed]

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.”[5][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 for the Social Democrats and enabled the coalition to continue. Henry Kissinger believed he was "an idiot" and a "bad" foreign minister.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Scheel with U.S. President Jimmy Carter, 1978

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. After the federal presidency, Scheel was Chairman of the Bilderberg Conference as well as President of the European Movement in Germany from 1980-85. From 1980-89 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 died on 24 August 2016 following a long illness.[6][7][8] Having lived to 97 years, 47 days he holds the record as the longest-lived German head of state, either imperial or elected.


  • with Karl-Hermann Flach and Werner Maihofer: Die Freiburger Thesen der Liberalen. Rowohlt, Hamburg 1972, ISBN 3-499-11545-X.
  • Die Zukunft der Freiheit – Vom Denken und Handeln in unserer Demokratie. Econ, 1979.
  • Wen schmerzt noch Deutschlands Teilung? 2 Reden zum 17. Juni, Rowohlt, Reinbek 1986, ISBN 3-499-18346-3.
  • with Otto Graf Lambsdorff: Freiheit in Verantwortung, Deutscher Liberalismus seit 1945. Bleicher, 1988, ISBN 3-88350-047-X.
  • with Jürgen Engert: Erinnerungen und Einsichten. Hohenheim-Verlag, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-89850-115-9.
  • with Tobias Thalhammer: Gemeinsam sind wir stärker – Zwölf erfreuliche Geschichten über Jung und Alt. Allpart Media, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86214-011-4.


  • 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. ^ Profile of Walter Scheel
  3. ^ Lohausen, Carsten (28 September 2013). "Aus Höhscheid in die Geschichtsbücher". Rheinische Post (in German). Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  4. ^ Geschichte und Politik in den Reden der deutschen Bundespräsidenten 1949-1984, Matthias Rensing,p. 152
  5. ^ Childs, David; Johnson, Jeffrey (1981). West Germany, politics and society. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-86300-5.
  6. ^ "Früherer Bundespräsident (1974-1979): Walter Scheel ist tot". SPIEGEL ONLINE (in German). Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  7. ^ "Ehemaliger Bundespräsident Walter Scheel ist tot". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Walter Scheel, Leading Figure in West German Thaw With the East, Dies at 97". The New York Times. 24 August 2016. Retrieved 25 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