Walter Scheel
Scheel in 1974
President of Germany
In office
1 July 1974 – 30 June 1979
ChancellorHelmut Schmidt
Preceded byGustav Heinemann
Succeeded byKarl Carstens
Chancellor of Germany
In office
7 May 1974 – 16 May 1974
PresidentGustav Heinemann
Preceded byWilly Brandt
Succeeded byHelmut Schmidt
Vice-Chancellor of Germany
In office
22 October 1969 – 16 May 1974
ChancellorWilly Brandt
himself (acting)
Preceded byWilly Brandt
Succeeded byHans-Dietrich Genscher
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
21 October 1969 – 16 May 1974
ChancellorWilly Brandt
himself (acting)
Preceded byWilly Brandt
Succeeded byHans-Dietrich Genscher
Vice President of the Bundestag
(on proposal of the FDP group)
In office
8 September 1967 – 19 October 1969
PresidentEugen Gerstenmaier
Kai-Uwe von Hassel
Preceded byThomas Dehler
Succeeded byLiselotte Funcke
Minister for Economic Cooperation
In office
14 November 1961 – 28 October 1966
ChancellorKonrad Adenauer
Ludwig Erhard
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byWerner Dollinger
Parliamentary constituencies
Member of the Bundestag
for North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
6 October 1953 – 27 June 1974
Preceded bymulti-member district
Succeeded byKarl-Hans Laermann
ConstituencyFree Democratic Party List
Member of the European Parliament
for West Germany
In office
1 July 1956 – 20 November 1961
Preceded bymulti-member district
Succeeded bymulti-member district
Member of the
Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia
for Remscheid
In office
5 July 1950 – 13 July 1954
Preceded byHugo Paul
Succeeded byWalter Frey
Personal details
Walter Scheel

(1919-07-08)8 July 1919
Höhscheid, Rhine Province, Free State of Prussia, Weimar Republic (now Solingen-Höhscheid, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany)
Died24 August 2016(2016-08-24) (aged 97)
Bad Krozingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Political partyFree Democratic Party (1946–2016)
Other political
Nazi Party (1942–1945)
  • Eva Charlotte Kronenberg
    (m. 1942; died 1966)
  • Mildred Wirtz
    (m. 1969; died 1985)
  • Barbara Wiese
    (m. 1988)
  • Politician
  • Businessman
  • Consultant

Walter Scheel (German: [ˈvaltɐ ˈʃeːl] (listen); 8 July 1919 – 24 August 2016)[1] was a German statesman. A member of the Nazi Party that joined the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP) in 1946, he first served in government as the Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development from 1961 to 1966 and later as President of Germany from 1974 to 1979. He led the FDP from 1968 to 1974.[2]

During the chancellorship of Willy Brandt, Scheel was Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Vice Chancellor. Scheel became acting Chancellor of West Germany from 7–16 May 1974 following Brandt's resignation after the Guillaume Affair. He was elected shortly after as the president of West Germany, remaining in the role until 1979. Scheel was a member of the Protestant Church in Germany.

Early life

Scheel was born in Solingen (now in North Rhine-Westphalia). He completed his Abitur at the Reformrealgymnsasium Schwertstraße.[3]

Scheel became a member of the Nazi Party in 1942.[4] During World War II, he served in the Luftwaffe during the last years of the war as a radar operator on a Bf 110 night fighter.[citation needed]

Political career

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When his Free Democratic Party reentered government in a coalition with Konrad Adenauer's Christian Democratic Union in 1961, Scheel was appointed federal minister of economic cooperation and development. He continued in that office under Chancellor Ludwig Erhard but brought about the downfall of the latter in late 1966 by resigning.

A Christian Democratic/Social Democratic Grand Coalition followed. During this time, in 1968, Scheel took over the party presidency from right wing liberal Erich Mende. According to one study, the election of Walter Scheel to the FDP leadership in 1968 “represented a turn to the left and the Free Democrats then indicated their wooing of the SPD by voting for the successful Social Democratic candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, Gustav Heinemann, in 1969.”[5][page needed]

In 1969, he led his party to form a new coalition with the Social Democrats. Under Chancellor Willy Brandt, Scheel became Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor. Under their leadership, West Germany pursued a course of rapprochement and détente with the Soviet block and officially recognized the existence of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). This policy caused a massive public debate, with various Free and Social Democrats switching sides to the opposition. Though an attempt to oust Brandt failed, the coalition had lost its slender majority. The parliamentary stalemate was ended by the dissolution of parliament and early elections in 1972, which brought great gains for the Social Democrats and enabled the coalition to continue.

On 7 May 1974, Brandt resigned as chancellor after one of his aides, Günter Guillaume, was arrested as a spy for the East German state. Though this had been internally suspected since 1973, Brandt accepted responsibility and resigned. Scheel, as acting chancellor, chaired the government meetings for a little over a week, until Helmut Schmidt was elected.[6] One of his first official acts as acting Chancellor was the award of the war blind radio play prize to Alfred Behrens on 8 May 1974. On 14 May, he chaired the cabinet meeting once.[7] Hans Dietrich Genscher became Scheel's successor as party chairman and as minister.[citation needed]

Scheel with U.S. President Jimmy Carter, 1978

Scheel was elected President of West Germany, a week after relinquishing his other government roles. He held the office from July 1974 until June 1979. At the funeral of Hanns Martin Schleyer in October 1977, Scheel gave a speech entitled shame. After the federal presidency, Scheel was Chairman of the Bilderberg Conference as well as President of the European Movement in Germany from 1980 to 1985. From 1980 to 1989 he was also President of the German section of the Union of European Federalists (UEF). He was named honorary chairman of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in 1991.[citation needed]


Scheel died on 24 August 2016 following a long illness.[8][9][10] Having lived to 97 years, 47 days he holds the record as the longest-lived German head of state, either imperial or elected.[citation needed]




  1. ^ Profile of Walter Scheel
  2. ^ "Walter Scheel (1974–1979)". German Federal Presidency. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  3. ^ Lohausen, Carsten (28 September 2013). "Aus Höhscheid in die Geschichtsbücher". Rheinische Post (in German). Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  4. ^ Geschichte und Politik in den Reden der deutschen Bundespräsidenten 1949-1984, Matthias Rensing,p. 152
  5. ^ Childs, David; Johnson, Jeffrey (1981). West Germany, politics and society. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-86300-5.
  6. ^ "16. Mai 2004 - Vor 30 Jahren: Helmut Schmidt wird zum Bundeskanzler gewählt". WDR (in German). Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  7. ^ Walter Scheel - Der 10-Tage-Kanzler In: BR Podcast, 26 October 2021.
  8. ^ "Früherer Bundespräsident (1974-1979): Walter Scheel ist tot". SPIEGEL ONLINE (in German). Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Ehemaliger Bundespräsident Walter Scheel ist tot". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  10. ^ "Walter Scheel, Leading Figure in West German Thaw With the East, Dies at 97". The New York Times. 24 August 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
Political offices Preceded byWilly Brandt Vice-Chancellor of West Germany 1969–1974 Succeeded byHans-Dietrich Genscher Preceded byWilly Brandt Foreign Minister of West Germany 1969–1974 Succeeded byHans-Dietrich Genscher Preceded byGustav Heinemann President of West Germany 1974–1979 Succeeded byKarl Carstens