“We must be acquainted with yesterday, we must also think about yesterday, if we really want to shape tomorrow to be good over the long-term”, as Konrad Adenauer once said. In this sense, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung is also best revealed through its history. And this began in the mid-1950s.
On 20 December 1955, a group of important people from the CDU founded the Society for Christian Democratic Educational Work with the goal of establishing an educational institution based on Christian democratic convictions. The first Chairman was Bruno Heck and Konrad Kraske as his Deputy; Heinrich Krone acted as Secretary. Krone and Heck in particular had expressly made the case in the Union for the creation of a training and educational institution.
Eichholz Manor – the nucleus of the KAS
Only a few days after the society’s founding, Eichholz Manor was purchased as an educational institution in January 1956. The building amidst a 1.5-hectare park between Bonn and Cologne provided the right environment for the project.
After extensive renovation work and preparations as well as holding the first seminars and conferences, Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer ceremoniously opened the Eichholz Political Academy on 12 April 1957. The institution's mission was “to promote democratic and civic education of the German people on a Christian foundation.” To this end, conferences and seminars were organised, international understanding was promoted by inviting foreign groups, and talented young people were supported with gaining access to an academic education.
Important initiators in the early days were Peter Molt (Head of the Academy from 1960 to 1966) and Bernhard Gebauer (from 1966 to 1981).
The topics and tasks of the Eichholz Political Academy were rapidly extended, making it necessary to establish independent institutions. This gave rise, among others, to the Institute for International Solidarity in 1962, which was devoted to education development work abroad; to a scholarship programme that specialised in the education of talented young academics in 1965; to the Institute for Municipal Science to transfer knowledge to local politicians in 1971 and the Archive for Christian-Democratic Policy in 1976. Since 1964, all of these institutions have operated under the umbrella of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. The respective institutes performed their tasks independently for the most part, coordinated by the foundation’s Board of Directors.
The founding of the Institute for International Solidarity led to the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung increasing its commitment outside Germany. In addition to educational work, development policy also played a key role; during the early years, great significance was attached to cooperation with Christian democratic parties and movements in developing countries, predominantly in Latin America, where Christian democracy became increasingly important in the 1960s.
The enforcement of human rights, freedom and social justice as well as the promotion of democracy were priorities of international cooperation. Following the first promising projects in Venezuela and Chile, contacts were soon made with other Latin American, African and Asian countries and field offices of the foundation were set up. As of the mid-1970s, this was followed by country offices in Western European countries and the USA. With turmoil in the Soviet Union and especially its collapse, further branches opened in Eastern and South Eastern Europe – the first office already on 10 November 1989 in Poland. Coincidentally, the ceremonial inauguration was attended by Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl one day after the opening of the Berlin Wall, and so the Chancellor had to cut short his visit.
Eichholz Manor alone was no longer able to satisfy the growing demand for political education, and thus the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung needed to create “field offices” within Germany itself; while also making it possible to take greater account of the local features in its educational work.
Local politics played a prominent role here so as to convey the necessary knowledge to people committed to local politics. Today, this service comprises 18 political education forums and regional offices which impart the foundation’s messages and topics in the German Federal States such that citizens can identify with it.
Relocation to Sankt Augstin
The increasing expansion and differentiation of the Adenauer-Stiftung’s work in the late 1970s and the development of new target groups, led to a restructuring of the Political Academy in Eichholz Manor in autumn 1981. Most of the previous educational work was now located in a central educational establishment, the Institute for Political Education, with responsibility for Eichholz Manor, the former eight regional training institutes and the office in Berlin. The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Political Academy was founded for academic-orientated dialogue on political issues. It was responsible for implementing conferences, workshops and symposiums and developed in the following years into a forum for encounter, dialogue and consulting between politics and society, business and science, church and culture.
The relocation to Sankt Augustin, not far from Bonn, was one step towards better coordinating and consolidating all the institute’s activities. With the completion of a new office complex in late 1976, all of the Konrad-Adenuaer-Stiftung’s institutes were merged into the newly erected building. The foundation now employed over 200 employees.
Following the Reunification
With reunification, the foundation had an expanded spectrum of tasks and had to devote itself to new issues despite scarcer financial resources. Under the leadership of Bernhard Vogel, who the General Assembly elected as foundation Chairman in January 1989, the foundation undertook a range of organisational, substantive and structural reorientations.
In 1992, the former seven institutes were combined into five working divisions: Political Education; Research and Consultation (from 2003 Politics and Consulting); Academic Services (including Scholarship and Archive); International Cooperation; and Administration. The Scholarship subsequently become an independent division.
Finally, the upcoming relocation of Bundestag and Federal Government to Berlin required a stronger presence of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in a new capital city. Therefore, in 1998 the Academy of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung was opened with a new event building. The three-storey building houses a large event hall in the centre. As a “display window” of the foundation, it soon developed as a central address near the government district. Even the nearby bus stop for Berlin bus lines now bears the name of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.
Already in 2001, the Board of Directors decided to further expand the foundation’s presence, since the event house only provided limited working space. As early as 2003, the Divisions for Politics and Consulting as well as International Cooperation moved to rented offices in walking distance from the Academy. In 2006, the new office building on Klingelhöferstraße was opened.
“Seismograph” for Changes
In order to empower the Konrad-Adenuaer-Stiftung to react like a seismograph to far-reaching political and social changes in Germany, Europe and the world and to develop forward-looking models of thought to an even greater extent, the foundation appointed a Board of Trustees in early 2000. The Board was chaired by former Federal President Roman Herzog and whose members included important people from politics, society, science and culture.
The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 confronted global politics with serious challenges and thus also the foundation’s work. The foundation’s Chairman, the Minister-President of Thuringia Bernhard Vogel, appointed to this office for the second time in March 2001, wrote: “In the wake of 11 September, the affirmation of what we defend to preserve peace and freedom, now pertains to the special obligations under our mission even more than before. The civilisational legacy of the Western Christian culture with its core values, the universality of human rights beyond cultural and political borders – these constitute the foundation upon which our commitment to democracy, understanding and tolerance is based.”
In 2010, Hans-Gert Pöttering, former President of the European Parliament, took over the Chairmanship of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. His unique connection with Europe was also reflected by the fact he introduced the State of Europe speech; this has now become an annually recurring statement by Europe’s highest representatives on the idea and state of Europe. It could be an important, not yet exploited, contribution towards perceptions on European development. Furthermore, the foundation’s international division was renamed European and International Cooperation. This should express that European cooperation is of greater importance than international cooperation and a main priority of the foundation’s work.
In 2013, the Board of Directors took the drastic decision, for financial reasons, to separate from the educational institutes of Eichholz Manor and Wendgräben Castle near Magdeburg, which had been acquired in 1997 as a second mainstay for educational work in the East German federal states. Hence, the intention was to further expand the foundation’s commitment to education policy.
Mission Statement “Shaping.Democracy.Together.”
The former President of the German Bundestag Norbert Lammert took over the leadership of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in 2018. In light of increasing crises of multilateralism over recent years, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung intensified its cooperation with international institutions, as reflected in the office openings in New York, Ottawa and Vienna.
So as to shape the foundation’s future work even more effectively and communicate it to the public in a more targeted manner, some organisational changes were undertaken in 2019 and 2020. For instance, the organisation of the Press Office and Online Editorial were merged to optimise the foundation’s communicative work as a media centre. Given the interconnection between national and international work, the analysis units of European and International Cooperation were combined with Politics and Consulting into the new Analysis and Consulting unit. The working areas of Marketing and Publications were also integrated into the former Strategy and Planning working unit. This now constitutes the Executive Staff together with the Media Centre and the Executive Board Office.
What is more, in 2019 the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung developed and formulated a mission statement for the first time under the title “Shape.Democracy.Together.” This provides information about “what we stand for, what we want and how we work.” Here it is interesting to note that this mission statement was the outcome of a discussion among all employees, and was accepted by the foundation’s Board of Directors as well as the General Assembly in summer 2019.
As of Spring 2020, the foundation’s work was directly impacted by the Corona pandemic. Many large events were either cancelled or postponed or replaced by alternative formats. Yet, in no time at all, the foundation succeeded in adjusting familiar procedures and breaking new ground. Not least due to the changed methods of working, digital infrastructure was greatly expanded.
In October 2020, the foundation welcomed Armin Nassehi as the first KAS fellow. The newly established KAS Fellowship will each year integrate an important person and their external perspective in the foundation’s work. In 2022, the Diplomat and Head of the Munich Security Conference Dr Christoph Heusge is “Adenauer Fellow 2022”.