Ludwig Erhard

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Bayern: Landeskirchliches Archiv der Evang.-Luth. Kirche > Dekanat Fürth > Fürth-St. Michael > Taufen 1892-1897, Bild 468

Creating the German Economic Miracle

Ludwig Erhard was born in Fürth (Bavaria) in 1897. After a commercial apprenticeship and two years of service in World War I, during which he was severely injured, he completed his studies at the Commercial College in Nuremberg. This was followed by studies of Business Administration, Economics and Sociology at Frankfurt University, where he obtained his doctoral degree. Erhard had worked in his parents’ business for a few years before it went bankrupt. After that, he entered the business world and became an academic assistant at an institute for consumer research. In 1942, he established his own institute for consumer research, the “Institut für Industrieforschung” (“Institute for Industrial Research”).

Erhard’s attitude during World War II is a controversial topic. On the one hand, historians blamed him for willingly serving the Nazi regime, while others contradicted and, among other things, pointed out his refusal to join the National Socialist Party and the resulting consequences for his career. 

Ludwig Erhard’s active political career started after the end of World War II with his membership in the Bavarian government. As the chairman of an expert committee, he was entrusted with the preparation of the currency reform in 1947 and, apart from that, became responsible for the economic policy in the Western occupation zones. Not being a party member, Erhard ran as a candidate for the CDU in the first federal elections and became Federal Minister of Economics under Konrad Adenauer in 1949. In this office, Erhard contributed to major electoral victories of the CDU that were particularly based on his economic strategy of social market economy. It was a highly controversial strategy that first met with distrust and skepticism, bringing about numerous defeats and drawbacks for Erhard. In 1957, he assumed the position of Vice Chancellor which he held - along with the position of Minister of Economics - until 1963. In 1963, Erhard was elected as Federal Chancellor. When entering office, he announced a new centrist policy of understanding emphasizing direct, down-to-earth communication with the citizens and the strengthening and stabilization of the young Federal Republic. Due to a noticeable loss of authority even in his own ranks, Erhard resigned as Federal Chancellor in 1966 but remained a member of the German Bundestag (Federal Parliament) until his death, eventually as its President by Seniority.

On occasion of his 80th birthday and only few months before he died on 5 May 1977 in Bonn, Erhard received numerous awards as “Father of the Economic Miracle”.