Walter Scheel


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(b. Solingen, 8 July 1919)

German; President of the Federal Republic of Germany 1974–9, leader of the FDP 1968–74 After grammar school, Scheel completed a banking apprenticeship, before being called up for military service. He served as a lieutenant in the air force from 1939 to 1945. Then he worked in his stepfather's scissors factory in Solingen before acting as secretary for various trade associations. In 1946 Scheel joined the Liberal FDP, representing the party first (1950) in the parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia and then from 1953 in the Bundestag. In 1958 his party sent him to the European parliament, where he chaired the committee for co-operation with the developing countries. This led to his appointment as Minister for Economic Co-operation in the last Adenauer government of 1961.

When the FDP lost office in 1966 Scheel identified himself with the liberal wing of his party and was elected chairman in 1968. He helped to persuade his colleagues to vote for Heinemann (SPD) as President of West Germany in 1969. This paid off as it led to the formation of the SPD-FDP coalition in October 1969 in which Scheel was appointed Deputy Chancellor and Foreign Minister. He played his part with Brandt in improving West Germany's relations with the Soviet bloc and in taking the Federal Republic into the UN in 1973. He was less successful in maintaining unity in his party and could do nothing to prevent a right-wing breakaway in 1970. He kept those who remained in the coalition with Brandt. In this the FDP prospered, increasing its vote from 5.8 per cent in 1969 to 8.4 per cent in 1972.

In 1974 Scheel was elected President of the Federal Republic and served until 1979.

Subjects: Politics.

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