Erich Ollenhauer (March 27 1901 – December 14 1963) was the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) 1952-1963.
Early political career and exile
Ollenhauer was born in Magdeburg
and joined the SPD in 1920. When the Nazis
took power in 1933 he fled Germany
. After the outbreak of WW2
Ollenhauer travelled across Europe in order to avoid Nazi persecution, first finding himself in Denmark
, then France
, and eventually London
, where he remained until the end of the war. In London he kept close ties to the Labour Party
, which financially supported the expatriate SPD (so-called SoPaDe
), of which Ollenhauer was a member.
In February 1946 Ollenhauer returned to Germany. In May the same year he was voted deputy leader of the SPD, behind Kurt Schumacher. Ollenhauer entered the Bundestag after the
1949 German federal elections.
Leadership of the SPD
After Schumacher's unexpected death in 1952, the SPD elected Ollenhauer as its leader. He ran as the SPD's candidate for Chancellor of Germany
in the 1953-
and 1957 German elections
, both of which were lost to Konrad Adenauer
In 1957 Ollenhauer called for a trans-European security alliance (in place of NATO and the Warsaw Pact), in which a reunified Germany would serve as an equal partner. While the plan was denounced as radical at the time, it helped pave the way for Brandt's Ostpolitik as well as indirectly influencing some developments within the European Union (such as a European common security policy), not to mention German unification. Ollenhauer's proposal is also known as the Ollenhauer Plan.
In 1961 Ollenhauer neglected to run for Chancellor a third time, instead supporting the candidacy of Berlin mayor Willy Brandt.
Ollenhauer died in Bonn on December 14 1963.