Erich Ollenhauer

Last updated
Erich Ollenhauer
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-21272-0001, Erich Ollenhauer.jpg
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
In office
Preceded by Kurt Schumacher
Succeeded by Willy Brandt
President of the Socialist International
In office
Preceded by Alsing Andersen
Succeeded by Bruno Pittermann
Personal details
Born27 March 1901
Died14 December 1963(1963-12-14) (aged 62)
Political party Social Democratic Party of Germany

Erich Ollenhauer (27 March 1901 – 14 December 1963) was the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) from 1952 until 1963.

Social Democratic Party of Germany Social-democratic political party in Germany

The Social Democratic Party of Germany, is a social-democratic political party in Germany.


Early political career and exile

Ollenhauer was born in Magdeburg and joined the SPD in 1920. When the Nazis took power in 1933 he fled Germany for Prague. After the outbreak of WW2 Ollenhauer travelled across Europe in order to avoid Nazi persecution, first going to Denmark, then France, Spain, Portugal, and eventually London, where he remained until the end of the war. In London, he kept close ties to the Labour Party, which financially supported the expatriate SPD (called SoPaDe ), of which Ollenhauer was a member. He also worked with the Union of German Socialist Organisations in Great Britain. [1]

Magdeburg Large city in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Magdeburg is the capital city and the second largest city of the state of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It is situated on the Elbe River.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Prague Capital city of the Czech Republic

Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, the 14th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the northwest of the Czech Republic on the Vltava river, Prague is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of 2.6 million. The city has a temperate climate, with warm summers and chilly winters.

In February 1946, Ollenhauer returned to Germany. In May the same year, he was voted deputy leader of the SPD, behind Kurt Schumacher. Ollenhauer entered the Bundestag after the 1949 German federal elections.

Kurt Schumacher German politician

Kurt Ernst Carl Schumacher was a German social democratic politician, who served as chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany from 1946 and was the first Leader of the Opposition in the West German Bundestag from 1949 until his death in 1952. An opponent of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's government, but an even stronger opponent of the East German Socialist Unity Party and communism in general, he was one of the founding fathers of post-war German democracy. He was also a noted opponent of the far-right and the far-left, i.e. the Nazi Party and the Communist Party of Germany, during the Weimar Republic, and is famous for his description of the communists as "red-painted Nazis." He spent over ten years in Nazi concentration camps, where he was severely mistreated.

Bundestag Federal parliament of Germany

The Bundestag is the German federal parliament. It can be compared to the chamber of deputies along the lines of the United States House of Representatives or the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. Through the Bundesrat, a separate institution, the individual states of Germany participate in legislation similar to a second house in a bicameral parliament.

Leadership of the SPD

After Schumacher's unexpected death in 1952, the SPD elected Ollenhauer as its leader. He ran as the SPD's candidate for Chancellor of Germany in the 1953 and 1957 German elections, both of which were lost to Konrad Adenauer's CDU.

Konrad Adenauer German statesman, Federal Chancellor of Germany, politician (CDU)

Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman who served as the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1963. He was co-founder and first leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a Christian Democratic party that under his leadership became one of the most influential parties in the country. As party leader he worked closely with the United States.

In 1957, Ollenhauer called for a trans-European security alliance (in place of NATO and the Warsaw Pact), in which a reunified Germany would serve as an equal partner. While the plan was denounced as radical at the time, it helped pave the way for Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, as well as indirectly influencing some developments within the European Union, such as a European common security policy) and the eventual reunification of Germany. Ollenhauer's proposal is also known as the Ollenhauer Plan.

NATO Intergovernmental military alliance of Western states

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries. The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949. NATO constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. NATO's Headquarters are located in Haren, Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.

Warsaw Pact international military alliance of Communist states

The Warsaw Pact, formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, was a collective defence treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland between the Soviet Union and seven Eastern Bloc satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe in May 1955, during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CoMEcon), the regional economic organization for the socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO in 1955 per the London and Paris Conferences of 1954, but it is also considered to have been motivated by Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe.

Willy Brandt German social-democratic politician; Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

Willy Brandt was a German statesman who was leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) from 1964 to 1987 and served as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1969 to 1974. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for his efforts to strengthen cooperation in western Europe through the EEC and to achieve reconciliation between West Germany and the countries of Eastern Europe. He was the first Social Democrat chancellor since 1930.

In 1961, Ollenhauer declined to run for Chancellor a third time, instead supporting the candidacy of Berlin mayor Willy Brandt.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Ollenhauer died in Bonn on 14 December 1963 from pulmonary embolism.

Related Research Articles

Free Democratic Party (Germany) Political party in Germany

The Free Democratic Party is a liberal and classical liberal political party in Germany. The FDP is led by Christian Lindner.

Kurt Georg Kiesinger Chancellor of West Germany

Kurt Georg Kiesinger was a German politician who served as Chancellor of Germany from 1 December 1966 to 21 October 1969. Before he became Chancellor he served as Minister President of Baden-Württemberg from 1958 to 1966 and as President of the Federal Council from 1962 to 1963. He was Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union from 1967 to 1971.

West Germany Federal Republic of Germany in the years 1949–1990

West Germany was the informal name for the Federal Republic of Germany, a country in Central Europe, in the period between its formation on 23 May 1949 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. During this Cold War period, the western portion of Germany was part of the Western Bloc. The Federal Republic was created during the Allied occupation of Germany after World War II, established from eleven states formed in the three Allied zones of occupation held by the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Its (provisional) capital was the city of Bonn. The Cold War era West Germany is unofficially historically designated the "Bonn Republic".

Herbert Wehner German politician (KPD, SPD)

Herbert Richard Wehner was a German politician. A former member of the Communist Party, he joined the Social Democrats (SPD) after World War II. He served as Federal Minister of Intra-German Relations from 1966 to 1969 and thereafter as chairman of the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag until 1983.

Hans-Jochen Vogel German politician

Hans-Jochen Vogel is a retired German politician and lawyer.

1972 West German federal election

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 19 November 1972 to elect the members of the 7th Bundestag. In the first snap elections since 1949, the Social Democratic Party for the first time in the history of the second German republic became the largest party in the Bundestag, winning 242 of the 518 seats. The coalition with the Free Democratic Party was resumed.

1969 West German federal election

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 28 September 1969 to elect the members of the 6th Bundestag. The CDU/CSU remained the largest faction and the Social Democratic Party remained the largest single party in the Bundestag, winning 237 of the 518 seats.

1961 West German federal election

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 17 September 1961 to elect the members of the fourth Bundestag. CDU/CSU remained the largest faction, while the Social Democratic Party narrowly became the largest individual party in the Bundestag, winning 203 of the 521 seats.

1957 West German federal election

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 15 September 1957 to elect the third Bundestag. The Christian Democratic Union and its longtime ally, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, won a sweeping victory, taking 277 seats in the Bundestag to win the first — and to date, only — absolute majority for a single German parliamentary group in a free election.

1953 West German federal election

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 6 September 1953 to elect the second Bundestag. The Christian Democratic Union emerged as the largest party.

1949 West German federal election

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 14 August 1949 to elect the first Bundestag, with a further eight seats elected in West Berlin between 1949 and January 1952 and another eleven between February 1952 and 1953. They were the first contested elections since 1933 and the first after the division of the country.

The Socialist Workers' Party of Germany was a centrist Marxist political party in Germany. It was formed by a left-wing party with around 20,000 members which split off from the SPD in the autumn of 1931. In 1931, the remnants of USPD merged into the party and in 1932 some Communist Party dissenters also joined the group as well as a part from the Communist Party Opposition. Nevertheless, its membership remained small. From 1933, the group's members worked illegally against Nazism.

Egon Bahr German politician (SPD)

Egon Karl-Heinz Bahr was a German SPD politician.

Andrea Nahles German politician

Andrea Maria Nahles is a German politician who served as Leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) from April 2018 until June 2019 and the leader of the SPD in the Bundestag from September 2017 until June 2019. She served as a Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs from 2013 to 2017 and SPD Youth leader. She is known within the party for criticising Gerhard Schröder's Agenda 2010. In June 2019, in the aftermath of the SPD's result in the 2019 European elections, she announced her resignation as leader of the SPD and as parliamentary leader of the SPD. For the transition period until a new SPD-leader is voted in, Manuela Schwesig, Malu Dreyer and Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel act as her successors.

Sopade was the name of the exile organization of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). It operated in Prague from 1933 to 1938, from 1938 to 1940 in Paris and until 1945 in London.

Gerhard Schröder German politician (SPD)

Gerhard Fritz Kurt Schröder is a German politician who served as Chancellor of Germany from 1998 to 2005, during which his most important political project was the Agenda 2010. As a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), he led a coalition government of the SPD and the Greens.

Fritz Heine German publisher

Fritz Heine was a German politician (SPD). He also involved himself in political journalism and newspaper publishing.


  1. Erich Ollenhauer, "Möglichkeiten und Aufgaben" Friedrich Ebert Foundation, official website. Presentation at the Union membership meeting, London. (December 6, 1942) Retrieved July 20, 2010 ‹See Tfd› (in German)
Party political offices
Preceded by
Kurt Schumacher
Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
Succeeded by
Willy Brandt
Preceded by
Alsing Andersen
President of the Socialist International
Succeeded by
Bruno Pittermann