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Speech by Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of the Federal Republic, at a Reception Given by the Allied High Commissioners (September 21, 1949)

The first parliamentary elections in the Federal Republic of Germany took place on August 14, 1949. On September 15, the German Bundestag elected CDU politician Konrad Adenauer chancellor of a liberal-bourgeois coalition government comprising the CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union), the FDP (Free Democratic Party), and the DP (German Party). A week later, Adenauer and his cabinet members paid their first official visit to the Allied High Commission. In his speech, Adenauer reminded his listeners of the material and spiritual misery of the immediate postwar years and the beginning of reconstruction with Allied help. Adenauer professed his support for an active European policy that would secure peace in Europe through economic and political cooperation. The first steps in that direction had already been taken with the Ruhr Agreement of April 28, 1949, and the establishment of the Council of Europe on May 5, 1949. Finally, Adenauer urged that the Occupation Statue, which took effect the day of his visit, be applied with the greatest possible restraint – at the reception, he symbolically underscored Germany’s claim to sovereignty by standing on the carpet reserved for the High Commissioners.

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I have the honor to pay you a visit in company with some of the members of my Cabinet, thereby establishing the first contact between the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the three High Commissioners. Now that the German Federal Assembly has convened, and the Federal president been elected, and now that I have been chosen Federal Chancellor and the members of the Federal Cabinet have been appointed, a new chapter of German history of the postwar years begins.—The disaster of the second world war has left in its wake a Germany almost totally destroyed. Our cities were in ruins. Economic life was largely smashed. All vestiges of a government had ceased. The very souls of men had suffered such injuries that it seemed doubtful whether a recovery would ever be possible. During the four years following the disaster of 1945, legislative and executive power was largely vested in the occupation powers. It was only step by step that executive and legislative functions were redelegated to German authorities on various levels, and with a limited power to make decisions. It is fitting and proper to acknowledge gratefully that the German population was saved during these trying years from starvation by Allied help in supplying food which at the time could not be purchased with the proceeds of German exports. It was this help which made possible the start of reconstruction. Now that the governmental and legislative elements of the German Federal Republic are being built up, a large part of the responsibility and the authority to make decisions will pass into German hands. We do not, of course, possess as yet complete freedom; since there are considerable restrictions contained in the occupation statute. We will do our part to bring about an atmosphere in which the Allied powers will see their way clear to apply the occupation statute in a liberal and generous manner; only in this way will the German people be able to attain full freedom. We hope that the Allied powers will, by making a corresponding use of the revision clause in the occupation statute, hasten the further political development of our country.

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