Minister For Foreign Affairs (Germany)
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Minister For Foreign Affairs Germany
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
German: Bundesminister des Auswärtigen
Bundesadler Bundesorgane.svg
2017-11-29-Heiko Maas-Maischberger-5685.jpg
Heiko Maas

since 14 March 2018
Federal Foreign Office
Formation21 March 1871
First holderHermann von Thile

The Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs (German: Bundesminister des Auswärtigen) is the head of the Federal Foreign Office and a member of the Cabinet of Germany. The current office holder is Heiko Maas. Since 1966, the Foreign Minister has often also simultaneously held the office of Vice Chancellor.

History of the office

The Foreign Office was established within the North German Confederation in 1870 and its head, first appointed in 1871, had the rank of Secretary of State. As the German constitution of 1871 installed the Chancellor as the sole responsible government minister and since the Chancellor generally also held the position of Foreign Minister of Prussia, the Secretary of State fulfilled a more subject role as an assistant to the Chancellor, acting largely to draft correspondence rather than to actually direct the formation of foreign policy. This was especially true during the chancellorships of Otto von Bismarck (1871-1890) and Bernhard von Bülow (1900-1909), both of whom had considerable prior experience with foreign affairs, while secretaries at other times wielded more influence over the foreign policy.

Gustav Stresemann, one of Germany's most influential Foreign Ministers and a 1926 Nobel Peace Prize laureate

In 1919, the Weimar Republic elevated the head of the foreign office to the position of Foreign Minister responsible for his department. As governments were now formed by parties entering coalitions with each other, individual ministers also gained independence towards from the chancellor.

After a succession of short-lived ministers, Gustav Stresemann, leader of the small National-liberal German People's Party, held the office of Foreign Minister in successive cabinets from 1923 to his death 1929. His long term gave stability to Germany's foreign policy and improved the minister's position towards the relatively weak and short-lived chancellors. Stresemann was awarded the 1926 Nobel Peace Prize for his work for reconciliation between Germany and France.[1]

The foreign office remained relatively unaffected by the establishment of the Nazi regime in 1933, as minister Konstantin von Neurath, appointed in 1932, remained in office until 1938; however, the office was increasingly marginalised in actual policy-making and with the replacement of Neurath by Ribbentrop lost any independent standing.

After World War II, two separate German states emerged in 1949, the democratic Federal Republic of Germany in the West and the communist-ruled German Democratic Republic in the East. While the Soviet Union ostensibly restored political sovereignty to its satellite and allowed for a Foreign Ministry of the GDR, West Germany's sovereignty was officially curtailed by the Western powers, especially in the field of foreign policy. In 1951 the Foreign Office was reestablished[2] in West Germany, but Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was required to hold the office of Foreign Minister until the Western powers restored sovereignty to West Germany in 1955. Then, Heinrich von Brentano di Tremezzo succeeded as foreign minister in 1955. In 1990, the GDR ceased to exist as a separate state and its territory was reunited with West Germany.

From the 1966 Grand Coalition government of Kurt Georg Kiesinger onwards, the office has been held by a member of the smaller partner in coalitions. Therefore, the Foreign Minister also mostly holds the office of Vice Chancellor of Germany, although there have been notable exceptions, most recently during the term of Philipp Rösler as Vice Chancellor, from 2011 to 2013.

List of officeholders

State Secretaries for Foreign Affairs (Außenstaatssekretäre), 1871-1919

Portrait Party Term of Office Chancellor
Hermann von Thile
Hermann von Thiele a 001.jpg N/A 21 March 1871 30 September 1872 Bismarck
Hermann Ludwig von Balan
Hermann Ludwig von Balan.jpg N/A 3 October 1872 9 October 1873
Bernhard Ernst von Bülow
Bernhard Ernst von Bülow.JPG N/A 9 October 1873 20 October 1879
Joseph Maria von Radowitz, Jr.
Joseph Maria von Radowitz, de Christian Franzen.jpg N/A 6 November 1879 17 April 1880
Chlodwig Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst
Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst.png N/A 20 April 1880 1 September 1880
Friedrich Graf zu Limburg-Stirum
Friedrich zu Limburg-Stirum, German diplomat (1835-1912).jpg N/A 1 September 1880 25 June 1881
Clemens Busch
N/A 25 June 1881 16 July 1881
Paul Graf von Hatzfeldt zu Trachenberg
Paul Graf Hatzfeld-Wildenburg (1831-1901).jpg N/A 16 July 1881 24 October 1885
Herbert Fürst von Bismarck
Herbert von Bismarck (C.W.Allers, 1892).jpg N/A 24 October 1885 26 March 1890 Bismarck
von Caprivi
Adolf Freiherr Marschall von Bieberstein
Adolf Marschall von Bieberstein.jpg N/A 31 March 1890 19 October 1897 von Caprivi
Bernhard Graf von Bülow
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2004-0098A, Bernhard von Bülow.jpg N/A 20 October 1897 23 October 1900 Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst
von Bülow
Oswald Freiherr von Richthofen
Oswald von Richthofen.jpg N/A 23 October 1900 17 January 1906 von Bülow
Heinrich Leonhard von Tschirschky und Bögendorff
Heinrich Leonhard von Tschirschky LOC 01127u.jpg N/A 24 January 1906 25 October 1907
Wilhelm Freiherr von Schoen
Paris, Baron Von Schon, German Amb. (LOC).jpg N/A 26 October 1907 27 June 1910 von Bülow
von Bethmann-Hollweg
Alfred von Kiderlen-Waechter
Alfred von Kiderlen-Waechter.jpg N/A 27 June 1910 30 December 1912 von Bethmann-Hollweg
Gottlieb von Jagow
Gottlieb von Jagow circa 1915.jpg N/A 11 January 1913 22 November 1916
Arthur Zimmermann
Arthur Zimmermann.png N/A 22 November 1916 6 August 1917 von Bethmann-Hollweg
Richard von Kühlmann
Richard von Kühlmann cph,3b32192.jpg N/A 6 August 1917 9 July 1918 Michaelis
von Hertling
Paul von Hintze
Paul von Hintze 1915.jpg N/A 9 July 1918 3 October 1918 von Hertling
Wilhelm Solf
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R73059, Wilhelm Solf.jpg N/A 3 October 1918 13 December 1918 von Baden
(Council of the People's Deputies)
Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau
Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau.jpg N/A 13 December 1918 13 February 1919 Ebert
(Council of the People's Deputies)

Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Reichsminister des Auswärtigen), 1919-1945

Political Party:   SPD   Zentrum   DDP   DVP   NSDP

No. Minister of Foreign Affairs Took office Left office Time in office Party Cabinet
Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau
Brockdorff, UlrichUlrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau
13 February 191920 June 1919127 daysIndependentScheidemann
Hermann Müller
Müller, HermannHermann Müller
21 June 191926 March 1920279 daysSPDBauer
Adolf Köster
Köster, AdolfAdolf Köster
10 April 19208 June 192059 daysSPDMüller I
Walter Simons
Simons, WalterWalter Simons
25 June 19204 May 192159 daysIndependentFehrenbach
Friedrich Rosen
Rosen, FriedrichFriedrich Rosen
10 May 192122 October 19211 year, 136 daysIndependentWirth I
Joseph Wirth
Wirth, JosephJoseph Wirth
26 October 192131 January 192297 daysCentreWirth II
Walther Rathenau
Rathenau, WaltherWalther Rathenau
1 February 192224 June 1922 +143 daysDDPWirth II
Joseph Wirth
Wirth, JosephJoseph Wirth
24 June 192214 November 1922143 daysCentreWirth II
Hans von Rosenberg
Rosenberg, HansHans von Rosenberg
22 November 192211 August 1923262 daysIndependentCuno
Gustav Stresemann
Stresemann, GustavGustav Stresemann
13 August 19233 October 1929 +6 years, 51 daysDVPStresemann I-II
Marx I-II
Luther I-II
Müller II
Julius Curtius
Curtius, JuliusJulius Curtius
4 October 19299 October 19312 years, 5 daysDVPMüller II
Brüning I
Heinrich Brüning
Brüning, HeinrichHeinrich Brüning
9 October 193130 May 1932234 daysCentreMüller II
Brüning II
Konstantin von Neurath
Neurath, KonstantinKonstantin von Neurath
(Independent until 1937)
1 June 19324 February 19385 years, 248 daysNSDAPvon Papen
von Schleicher
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ribbentrop, JoachimJoachim von Ribbentrop
4 February 193830 April 19457 years, 85 daysNSDAPHitler
Arthur Seyss-Inquart
Seyss, ArthurArthur Seyss-Inquart
30 April 19452 May 19452 daysNSDAPGoebbels
Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
Krosigk, LutzLutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
2 May 194523 May 194521 daysNSDAPSchwerin von Krosigk

Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the GDR, 1949-1990

Political Party:   CDU   SED   NDPD   SPD

No. Minister of Foreign Affairs Took office Left office Time in office Party Chairman
Georg Dertinger
Dertinger, GeorgGeorg Dertinger
12 October 194915 January 19533 years, 3 monthsCDUGrotewohl
Anton Ackermann
Ackermann, AntonAnton Ackermann
15 January 1953July 19535 monthsSEDGrotewohl
Lothar Bolz
Bolz, LotharLothar Bolz
July 195324 June 196511 years, 11 monthsNDPDGrotewohl
Otto Winzer
Winzer, OttoOtto Winzer
24 June 196520 January 19759 years, 6 monthsSEDStoph
Oskar Fischer
Fischer, OskarOskar Fischer
(born 1923)
3 March 197512 April 199015 years, 1 monthSEDSindermann
Markus Meckel
Meckel, MarkusMarkus Meckel
(born 1952)
12 April 199020 August 19904 monthsSPDde Maizière
Lothar de Maizière
Maizière, LotharLothar de Maizière
(born 1940)
20 August 19902 October 19901 monthCDUde Maizière

Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Bundesminister des Auswärtigen), since 1951

Political Party:   CDU   SPD   FDP   Green

No. Minister of Foreign Affairs Took office Left office Time in office Party Cabinet
Konrad Adenauer
Adenauer, KonradKonrad Adenauer
15 March 19516 June 19554 years, 83 daysCDUAdenauer I-II
Heinrich von Brentano di Tremezzo
Tremezzo, HeinrichHeinrich von Brentano di Tremezzo
6 June 195530 October 19616 years, 146 daysCDUAdenauer II-III
Gerhard Schröder
Schröder, GerhardGerhard Schröder
14 November 196130 November 19665 years, 16 daysCDUAdenauer IV-V
Erhard I-II
Willy Brandt
Brandt, WillyWilly Brandt
1 December 196620 October 19692 years, 323 daysSPDKiesinger
Walter Scheel
Scheel, WalterWalter Scheel
21 October 196915 May 19744 years, 206 daysFDPBrandt I-II
Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Genscher, HansHans-Dietrich Genscher
17 May 197417 September 19828 years, 123 daysFDPSchmidt I-II-III
Helmut Schmidt
Schmidt, HelmutHelmut Schmidt
17 September 19824 October 198217 daysSPDSchmidt III
Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Genscher, HansHans-Dietrich Genscher
4 October 198217 May 19929 years, 226 daysFDPKohl I-II-III-IV
Klaus Kinkel
Kinkel, KlausKlaus Kinkel
18 May 199226 October 19986 years, 161 daysFDPKohl IV-V
Joschka Fischer
Fischer, JoschkaJoschka Fischer
(born 1948)
27 October 199822 November 20057 years, 26 daysGreenSchröder I-II
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Steinmeier, FrankFrank-Walter Steinmeier
(born 1956)
22 November 200528 October 20093 years, 340 daysSPDMerkel I
Guido Westerwelle
Westerwelle, GuidoGuido Westerwelle
28 October 200917 December 20134 years, 50 daysFDPMerkel II
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Steinmeier, FrankFrank-Walter Steinmeier
(born 1956)
17 December 201327 January 20173 years, 41 daysSPDMerkel III
Sigmar Gabriel
Gabriel, SigmarSigmar Gabriel
(born 1959)
27 January 201714 March 20181 year, 46 daysSPDMerkel III
Heiko Maas
Maas, HeikoHeiko Maas
(born 1966)
14 March 2018Incumbent1 year, 184 daysSPDMerkel IV


  1. ^ Wright, Jonathan, Gustav Stresemann: Weimar's Greatest Statesman (2002)
  2. ^

External links

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