Konrad Adenauer: Background information when reading The Same Sky

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The Same Sky

by Amanda Eyre Ward

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward X
The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward
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    Jan 2015, 288 pages
    Sep 2015, 304 pages


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Konrad Adenauer

This article relates to The Same Sky

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We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon.

Amanda Eyre Ward's novel The Same Sky takes its title from this quote, which is attributed to Konrad Adenauer, who was the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949-1966. Who was this charismatic leader?

Konrad AdenauerKonrad Adenauer was born in Cologne, Germany on January 6, 1876. His family was hard working and lived simply, and he grew up believing in frugality, and dedication to work and religion. After practicing law for a number of years, in 1906 he successfully applied for and became a member of the Cologne City Council. During the First World War, Adenauer showed his creativity and ingenuity by organizing the food supply of the city (he set up large kitchens in working class neighborhoods to ensure that people could eat), and in 1917 he became Lord Mayor of the city, making him the youngest mayor in Prussia. While Lord Mayor, he created new port facilities, a greenbelt, sports grounds, exhibition sites and sponsored the founding of the University of Cologne. In 1921 he was elected as President of the Prussian State Council.

After the Nazis came to power, Adenauer was replaced as the Mayor of Cologne. He was also briefly imprisoned by the Nazis in 1934, and then arrested once again, 10 years later, when he was accused of being a part of the failed bomb plot against Hitler in July 1944.

When the United States liberated Cologne, it reappointed Adenauer as Mayor, but the British military dismissed this appointment. Soon afterward, Adenauer joined the newly created Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a political party consisting of Roman Catholics and Protestants who had come together as a unified front against Nazism and to promote Christian principles in government. He was made President of the Parliamentary Council that, in 1948, drew up a constitution for the western three zones of Germany, which were occupied by the French, British and Americans. (The eastern part of Germany was occupied by the Soviets who created a communist government.)

On September 15, 1949, Adenauer was elected as chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. First one of the youngest appointed mayors, Der Alte (the old one) now became one of the oldest democratically elected leaders in world history – he was 73 at the time. His main goal was to ensure that Germany would transition to a sovereign nation. In 1952, military occupation ceased, and in 1955, West Germany was recognized as an independent country. Adenauer also worked hard for domestic policy reforms in Germany. He was focused on the integration of refugees and other displaced people, constructing a social market economy, and promoting free competition within a socialist government.

Adenauer maintained and nurtured ties with the US and France, and even opened diplomatic relations with the USSR and other eastern European communist countries, but he never recognized East Germany. Adenauer is also credited with negotiating a compensation agreement with Israel for the crimes Nazis committed against Jews. Adenauer retired as chancellor of Germany in 1966, but remained the president of the CDU until 1966. He died on April 20, 1967.

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung is a political foundation whose mission is to create civic education programs aimed at promoting freedom, liberty, peace and justice, with a focus on democracy and the unification of Europe. They offer on their website: "We are proud to bear the name of Konrad Adenauer. The first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany's name and principles are our guidelines, duty, and obligation." These principles – especially those guiding Adenauer's work around connections with other nations, as well as the integration of refugees inside Germany – clearly give meaning to his often quoted belief: We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon.

Konrad Adenauer, courtesy of Katherine Young

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Same Sky. It originally ran in February 2015 and has been updated for the September 2015 paperback edition.

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