Kurt Hans Biedenkopf


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(b. Ludwigshafen, 28 Jan. 1930)

German; Minister-President of Saxony 1990–2002, Secretary-General of the CDU 1973–7 Biedenkopf was one of the first of the post-war generation of Germans to seek intellectual stimulus at American universities, studying politics in 1949 at Davidson College and gaining an LL M from Georgetown University (Washington) in 1962. By that time he had been awarded his doctorate at Frankfurt am Main University. From 1964 to 1970 he was professor of commercial law at the Ruhr University serving as rector 1967–9. After heading the government's commission on industrial co-determination, he was appointed to the board of the Henkel firm in 1971 where he remained until 1973.

At the invitation of Kohl, Biedenkopf took over as Secretary-General of the CDU in 1973, serving until 1977. His brief was to reorganize the party machinery but the Christian Democrats failed in their challenge to Schmidt in 1976 and he and Kohl cooled in their relations. He was a member of the parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) 1980–7, and chairman of the CDU there 1986–7. He stood down after failing to dislodge the SPD government of NRW. He served as a member of the Bundestag 1976–80 and 1987–90.

Biedenkopf was one of the first West German politicians to understand the changes in East Germany in 1989. He had been a frequent visitor and had taken up hardship cases. The result was that he was invited to lead the CDU in Saxony in 1990. He won the regional election in that year, being elected Minister-President, and again in 1994 and 1999 in this traditionally socialist stronghold. He was a popular figure in Saxony and instrumental in bringing investment into the state. Within the CDU, he opposed Helmut Kohl and was instrumental in his replacement by Angela Merkel. He resigned in 2002 before his term was completed.

Subjects: Politics.

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