Ludwig Erhard

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Ludwig Wilhelm Erhard (German pronunciation: [ˈluːdvɪk ˈɛʁhaʁt]; 4 February 1897–5 May 1977) was a German politician (CDU) and Chancellor of West Germany from 1963 until 1966. He is notable for his leading role in German postwar economic reform and economic recovery, particularly in his role as Minister of Economics under Chancellor Konrad Adenauer after 1949.


Life and work

Born in Fürth, Kingdom of Bavaria, from 1913 to 1916 Erhard was a commercial apprentice. After his apprenticeship he worked as retail salesman in his father's draper's shop.

He joined the German forces during World War I 1916 as an artilleryman, fought in Romania and was seriously injured near Ypres in 1918. Erhard could no longer work as a draper and began to study economics, first in Nuremberg, later in Frankfurt am Main. He received his PhD from Franz Oppenheimer in 1925.

During his time in Frankfurt he married Luise Lotter (1893-1975), widow Schuster, on 11 December 1923. After his graduation they moved to Fürth and he became executive in his parents' company in 1925. After three years he became assistant at the Institut für Wirtschaftsbeobachtung der deutschen Fertigware, a marketing research institute. Later, he became deputy director of the institute.

Due to his injuries, Erhard did not have to join the German military forces during World War II. Instead, he worked on concepts for a postwar peace; however, officially such studies were forbidden by the Nazis, who had declared Total war. As a result, Erhard lost his job in 1942 but continued to work on the subject by order of the "Reichsgruppe Industrie". In 1944 he wrote War Finances and Debt Consolidation (orig: Kriegsfinanzierung und Schuldenkonsolidierung). In this study he assumed that Germany had already lost the war. He sent his thoughts to Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, a central figure in the German resistance against the Nazi government, who recommended Erhard to his comrades. Erhard discussed his concept with Otto Ohlendorf, deputy secretary of state in the Reichsministerium für Wirtschaft, as well. Ohlendorf himself spoke out for "active and courageous entrepreneurship (aktives und wagemutiges Unternehmertum)", which was intended to replace bureaucratic state planning of the economy after the war. Erhard was an outsider who supported the resistance, who personally and professionally rejected Nazism, and who endorsed efforts to effect a sensitive, intelligent approach to economic revival during the approaching postwar period. On the other hand he signed off his letters with 'Heil Hitler!' and he embraced annexationist policies that continued to influence his economic policies as finance minister and chancellor during the postwar period.

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