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Farewell to Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (October 15, 1963)

Eighty-seven year-old Konrad Adenauer, who had resigned only under pressure, is honored by Bundestag President Eugen Gerstenmaier in the following address. Gerstenmaier not only emphasizes the former chancellor’s achievements in domestic and foreign policy but also discusses his leadership style, which had often been criticized as too autocratic.

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Why there is Talk of Gratitude in this Hour.
The text of the speech honoring Konrad Adenauer by Bundestag President Dr. Eugen Gerstenmaier

The Federal President sent me the following message: “The Federal Chancellor, Dr. Konrad Adenauer, announced his resignation to me in a letter of October 10, 1963. I have accepted his resignation, and this afternoon I will present the Chancellor with a document declaring that his term will end on October 15, 1963.”

Honorable Mr. Chancellor,

This house and you yourself are well aware that in a parliamentary democracy it is not usual for a head of government to leave his office and return to his seat as a member of parliament. With this session, the German Bundestag does not necessarily intend to set a precedent that will absolutely become the rule. But this house and all its component parts are so struck by the extraordinary and significant nature of what is taking place today that no one objected to this session.

As always, it is not only your friends, companions, and admirers who have come together here today, but also your critics and political adversaries. I know there are still several unhealed wounds in this house that were inflicted in the years of your chancellorship. All the more momentous, however, is this hour, in which the highest representatives of the German people have come together for the sole purpose of thanking the first Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, who, although advanced in age, faithfully and vigorously carried the burden of the most difficult office that Germany has to offer for fourteen years.

The historical importance of this hour becomes clear just by virtue of the fact that you, Mr. Chancellor, are the only person in the last hundred tumultuous years of German history who can leave your incomparable position, undefeated and in peace, after a long term in office, and calmly return to the position from which you rose on September 15, 1949.

[ . . . ]

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