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[ehr' hahrt] Chancellor of West Germany, 1963-1966
Ludwig Erhard was born in Fürth, Bavaria, on February 4, 1897, the son of a shop owner. He attended school only to junior secondary level, then entered a commercial apprenticeship at age sixteen. An artilleryman during the First World War, Erhard was seriously wounded in battle near Ypres in 1918. After the war he attended the Commercial College at Nuremberg, and then went on to earn doctorates in economics and political science from the University of Frankfurt. He began teaching at the Institute of Economic Studies in Nuremberg in 1928, and served as director of the Institute from 1930 to 1942.
During World War II, Erhard served as an adviser on economic affairs and operated a private market research firm. In 1944, he wrote a memo on war financing and debt consolidation which began with the assumption that Germany would lose the war. The memo was ultimately passed by German resistance to the Allies, who saw in Erhard a man who could help Germany rebuild economically.
After the war ended, Erhard was named Minister of Economics for Bavaria. In 1947, he was appointed Commissioner of Economic Affairs for the joint Anglo-U.S. occupation zone, a position in which he was responsible for helping establish a new German currency. Despite serious misgivings from the Allies, Erhard abolished price controls at the same moment the Allies introduced a new German currency. Surprising to all but Erhard, this move became the foundation of Germany's economic rebirth. The black market disappeared, shortages ended, inflation halted, and the population's strong commercial instincts took hold.
Soon after formation of the West German Republic in 1949, Erhard was elected as a member of the Christian Democratic Union to the first Bundestag (Parliament). He was subsequently appointed Minister of Economics in the first cabinet of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and served as Vice-Chancellor from 1957-1963.
In 1963, Erhard was chosen by the Christian Democratic Union to succeed Adenauer as Chancellor. He was re-elected in 1965, as head of a coalition government of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats. As a result of increasing taxes and other issues, the Christian Democrats forced him to resign in 1966. He was succeeded as Chancellor by Kurt Georg Kiesinger.
Erhard remained a member of the Bundestag until his death, on May 5, 1977. He was appointed honorary chairman of the Christian Democratic Union in 1967.
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This page was last updated on 06/09/2017.