Theodor Heuss

Last updated
Theodor Heuss
DPAG 2009 Theodor Heuss.jpg
President Heuss on a 2009 German stamp
President of Germany
(West Germany)
In office
12 September 1949 12 September 1959
Chancellor Konrad Adenauer
Preceded by Karl Arnold (Acting)
Succeeded by Heinrich Lübke
Personal details
Born(1884-01-31)31 January 1884
Brackenheim, Kingdom of Württemberg, Germany
Died12 December 1963(1963-12-12) (aged 79)
Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany
NationalityWest German
Political party Progressive People's (1910–1918)
German Democratic (1918–1933)
Democratic (1947–1948)
Free Democratic (1948–1963)
Spouse(s) Elly Knapp (1881–1952)
Alma mater Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Signature Signatur Theodor Heuss.jpg

Theodor Heuss (German pronunciation: [ˈte:odɔɐ ˈhɔʏs]; 31 January 1884 12 December 1963) was a West German liberal politician who served as the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1959. Beside the stern chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Heuss' cordial manners largely contributed to the stabilization of democracy in West Germany during the Wirtschaftswunder years.

Chancellor of Germany Head of government of Germany

The title Chancellor has designated different offices in the history of Germany. It is currently used for the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, the head of government of Germany.

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.


The term Wirtschaftswunder, also known as the Miracle on the Rhine, describes the rapid reconstruction and development of the economies of West Germany and Austria after World War II. The expression referring to this phenomenon was first used by The Times in 1950.


Early life and education

Heuss was born in Brackenheim, a small town in Württemberg near Heilbronn. This “wine community” is located next to the border of Swabian to the Franconian area. He studied economics, art history and political science at the universities of Munich and Berlin, receiving his doctorate in 1905 in Munich with Lujo Brentano as his thesis adviser. On 11 April 1908, he married Elly Heuss-Knapp (1881–1952), with whom he had a son. The minister at the Lutheran wedding ceremony held in Straßburg was Albert Schweitzer, a close friend of Elly's. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Brackenheim Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Brackenheim  is a town in the Landkreis Heilbronn in Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. It is 15 kilometres (9 mi) southwest of Heilbronn. With 826 hectares of vineyards, it is the biggest grape-growing municipality of Württemberg.

Württemberg Describes Württemburg in different forms from 1092 until 1945 - not to be confused with articles on parts of this period.

Württemberg is a historical German territory roughly corresponding to the cultural and linguistic region of Swabia. Together with Baden and Hohenzollern, two other historical territories, it now forms the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. Württemberg was formerly also spelled Würtemberg and Wirtemberg.

Heilbronn Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Heilbronn is a city in northern Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is surrounded by Heilbronn County and, with approximately 123,000 residents, it is the sixth-largest city in the state.

Personal life

Heuss was a member of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

Evangelical Church in Germany the association of 20 Lutheran, United and Reformed churches in Germany

The Evangelical Church in Germany is a federation of twenty Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist) and United Protestant regional churches and denominations in Germany, which collectively encompasses the vast majority of Protestants in that country. In 2017, the EKD had a membership of 21,536,000 members, or 26.1% of the German population. It constitutes one of the largest national Protestant bodies in the world. Church offices managing the federation are located in Hannover-Herrenhausen, Lower Saxony. Many of its members consider themselves Lutherans.


After his studies Heuss worked as a political journalist in Berlin and from 1905 until 1912 presided over the magazine Die Hilfe ("The Aid") published by Friedrich Naumann. From 1912 to 1918, he was editor in chief of the Neckarzeitung (Neckar Newspaper) in Heilbronn. In Berlin, he worked as editor for the weekly newsletter Deutsche Politik ("German Politics"). With Naumann, Heuss in 1903 he joined the liberal Free-minded Union, which in 1910 merged in the Progressive People's Party (Fortschrittliche Volkspartei), in which he was engaged until its dissolution in 1918.

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.

Friedrich Naumann German politician

Friedrich Naumann was a German liberal politician and Protestant parish pastor. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation of the Free Democratic Party is named after him.

Neckar right tributary of Rhine river in Germany

The Neckar is a 362-kilometre-long (225 mi) river in Germany, mainly flowing through the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, with a short section through Hesse. The Neckar is a major right tributary of the Rhine. Rising in the Black Forest near Villingen-Schwenningen in the Schwenninger Moos conservation area at a height of 706 m (2,316 ft) above sea level, it passes through Rottweil, Rottenburg am Neckar, Kilchberg, Tübingen, Wernau, Nürtingen, Plochingen, Esslingen, Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg, Marbach, Heilbronn and Heidelberg, before discharging into the Rhine at Mannheim, at 95 m (312 ft) above sea level.

After World War I, Heuss between 1923 and 1926 published the magazine Die Deutsche Nation ("The German Nation"). He had become a member of the German Democratic Party (Deutsche Demokratische Partei, DDP), from 1930 renamed German State Party (Deutsche Staatspartei, DStP), the political heir of the Fortschrittliche Volkspartei in 1918 and was a member of the Reichstag parliament from 1924 to 1928 and again from 1930 to 1933.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

German Democratic Party former German political party on the left wing of the political spectrum

The German Democratic Party was founded in November 1918 by leaders of the former Progressive People's Party, left-wing members of the National Liberal Party and a new group calling themselves the Democrats.

The German State Party was a short-lived German political party of the Weimar Republic, formed by the merger of the German Democratic Party with the People's National Reich Association in July 1930.

On 23 March 1933, along with his four fellow DStP parliamentarians, Heuss voted in favour of the Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz), granting Chancellor Adolf Hitler quasi-dictatorial powers. [6] He had set out to abstain, but after Heinrich Brüning indicated that with regard to the Reichskonkordat the Centre Party MPs would assent, ultimately subordinated to party discipline. [7] Alternative views of Hermann Dietrich, Weimar Republic finance minister claim that he was part of the majority in favor of voting for the enabling law. [8] When Germany became a one-party state, the DStP was dissolved on 28 June 1933 and Heuss was divested of his Reichstag mandate by decree of Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick with effect from 8 July.

Enabling Act of 1933 Transfer of the Reichstags power to the government under Hitler

The Enabling Act of 1933, formally titled Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich, was an amendment passed on 23 March 1933 to the Weimar Constitution that gave the German Cabinet — in effect, Chancellor Adolf Hitler — the power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag. The Enabling Act gave Hitler plenary powers and followed on the heels of the Reichstag Fire Decree, which had abolished most civil liberties and transferred state powers to the Reich government. The combined effect of the two laws was to transform Hitler's government into a legal dictatorship.

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Heinrich Brüning German chancellor

Heinrich Aloysius Maria Elisabeth Brüning was a German Centre Party politician and academic, who served as Chancellor of Germany during the Weimar Republic from 1930 to 1932.

Following the end of his term he returned to private life. During the Third Reich he stayed in contact with a network of liberals, leading to contacts with the German resistance towards the end of the war, though he was not an active resister. In 1936 Heuss faced a publication ban, nevertheless in 1941 he became an employee of the Frankfurter Zeitung , one of the few remaining liberal newspapers at that time. Heuss wrote under pseudonyms until publishing of the paper was finally prohibited in 1943. He spent the following years writing a biography of Robert Bosch.

After World War II the US Office of Military Government on 24 September 1945 appointed Heuss the first Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs in the German state of Württemberg-Baden under his fellow party member Minister-president Reinhold Maier, in favour of whom he resigned in 1946. As a co-founder of the Democratic People's Party (Demokratische Volkspartei, DVP), the predecessor of the German Free Democratic Party (Freie Demokratische Partei, FDP) in the southwestern German states, he was a member of the Württemberg-Baden state parliament ( Landtag ) from 1946 to 1949. Heuss also taught history at the Stuttgart Institute of Technology in 1946 and 1947, receiving the title of an honorary professor in 1948.

After plans elaborated with Wilhelm Külz to build up an all-German liberal party had failed, Heuss in December 1948 was elected head of West German and Berlin sections of the newly founded Free Democratic Party. He advocated uniting all liberal parties in the Western occupation zones, overcoming the split between right liberals and left liberals that had existed in the Weimar Republic. In 1948, he was a member of the Parlamentarischer Rat (Parliamentary Council) at Bonn with considerable influence in the drafting of West Germany's constitution, the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany.


Heuss with king Paul of Greece and mayor Pafsanias Katsotas in Athens in May 1956. Katsotas pafs 2018.jpg
Heuss with king Paul of Greece and mayor Pafsanias Katsotas in Athens in May 1956.

After being elected to the first German Bundestag, he relinquished his parliamentary mandate on 12 September 1949, when he was elected President by the Federal Convention (Bundesversammlung) defeating the Social Democrat leader Kurt Schumacher in the second ballot. He took the oath required by article 56 of the Basic Law before a joint session of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat on the same date. [9] By the time he was confirmed as the first democratic German president since Paul von Hindenburg, he refused to be called “Excellency”, preferring instead to be called simply “Herr Heuss”, [10] Herr Bundespräsident is the German term of address up to today. Heuss's plans for a new national anthem were aborted by Adenauer, who in rare accordance with Kurt Schumacher had the third stanza of the old Deutschlandlied established in 1952.

A widower since 1952, Heuss was re-elected in 1954 with practically no opposition, after the Social Democrats had renounced the nomination of a rival candidate. Not until May 1956, could he make his first state visit, invited by King Paul of Greece. The president, accompanied by Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano, was overwhelmed by the warm reception in Athens, considering that the country had heavily suffered under German occupation in World War II. He held office until the end of his term on 12 September 1959, succeeded by Heinrich Lübke. He had declined a third term in office, as this would have necessitated changing the constitution.

Adenauer and Heuss on 14 September 1959. Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F006929-0004, Bundeskanzler Adenauer mit Theodor Heuss.jpg
Adenauer and Heuss on 14 September 1959.

Heuss shaped the office of president by his non-partisan governing. As a representative of the democratic-liberal and cultural traditions of Germany, he was a symbol of confidence in the German post-war republic in the international community. His further state visits to Turkey, Italy, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom contributed greatly to the increase of appreciation toward the still young Federal Republic of Germany. He was opposed to re-armament and the founding of the new West German Army in 1955, but had no power to stop it. His ironic speech at the swearing in of the first new soldiers, "Nun siegt mal schön!" ("Happy war-winning!"), is well remembered. In 1959, Heuss was awarded the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels'.')

On 12 December 1963 Heuss died in Stuttgart, aged 79.

Since 1964, the Theodor Heuss Prize has been awarded for exemplary democratic disposition. Heuss's former residence is now open to the public as the Theodor-Heuss-Haus. His image appeared on one series of the two-mark coin and numerous streets and squares all over Germany have been named in his honour. During his time in office, his image also appeared on definitive stamps in West Germany issued between 1954 and 1960. An Airbus A310 aircraft of the Luftwaffe used by the German head of government also carries his name.

Honours and awards

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  1. Oermann, N.O. (2016). Albert Schweitzer: A Biography. Oxford University Press. p. 101–102. ISBN   978-0-19-108704-2 . Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  2. Brabazon, J. (2000). Albert Schweitzer: A Biography. Albert Schweitzer library. Syracuse University Press. p. 422. ISBN   978-0-8156-0675-8 . Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  3. Pierhal, J. (1956). Albert Schweitzer: the life of a great man. Lutterworth. p. 63. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  4. Pierhal, J. (1957). Albert Schweitzer: the story of his life. Philosophical Library. p. 63f. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  5. The Bulletin, Bonn, West Germany: Press and Information Office, 9–10, p. 36, 1962, ISSN   0032-7794 , retrieved 2 July 2017Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. Official Record of the Reichstag Bavarian State Library, March 23, 1933, last access: November 27, 2017.
  7. Information on the webpage of the German foundation 'Stiftung Bundespräsident-Theodor-Heuss-Haus' (Foundation Federal President Theodor Heuss House)
  8. Hjamar Schacht. The Magic of Money, London: Oldbourne, 1967, p.105
  10. GERMANY: Out by the Kitchen. TIME Magazine , September 26, 1949
  11. "HEUSS Dott. Theodor decorato di Gran Cordone" (in Italian). Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  12. Icelandic Presidency Website (Icelandic), Order of the Falcon, Heuss, Theodor, 29 January 1955
  13. "Reply to a parliamentary question" (PDF) (in German). p. 26. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
Political offices
New creation President of West Germany
Succeeded by
Heinrich Lübke