Minister for Foreign Affairs (Germany)

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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[edit]

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[edit]

State Secretaries for Foreign Affairs (Außenstaatssekretäre), 1871–1919[edit]

Portrait Party Term of Office Chancellor
Hermann von Thile
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[edit]

Political Party:   SPD   Zentrum   DDP   DVP   NSDP

Portrait Party Term of Office Chancellor
Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau
Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau.jpg Independent 13 February 1919 20 June 1919 Scheidemann
Hermann Müller
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1979-122-28A, Hermann Müller.jpg SPD 21 June 1919 26 March 1920 Bauer
Adolf Köster
Koester adolf 1920s.png SPD 10 April 1920 8 June 1920 Müller
Walter Simons
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-12279, Walter Simons.jpg Independent 25 June 1920 4 May 1921 Fehrenbach
Friedrich Rosen
Dr Friedrich Rosen 1910.jpg Independent 10 May 1921 22 October 1921 Wirth
Joseph Wirth
Bundesarchiv Bild 146III-105, Joseph Wirth.jpg Zentrum 26 October 1921 31 January 1922 Wirth
Walther Rathenau
Walther Rathenau.jpg DDP 1 February 1922 21 June 1922
Joseph Wirth
Bundesarchiv Bild 146III-105, Joseph Wirth.jpg Zentrum 21 June 1922 14 November 1922
Hans von Rosenberg
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00098, Berlin, Reichstag, Gedächtnisfeier für Rathenau (cropped).jpg Independent 22 November 1922 11 August 1923 Cuno
Gustav Stresemann
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1982-092-11, Gustav Stresemann.jpg DVP 13 August 1923 3 October 1929 Stresemann
Julius Curtius
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10108, Reichsaussenministers Curtius mit Familie (cropped).jpg DVP 4 October 1929 9 October 1931 Müller
Heinrich Brüning
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-0630-504, Heinrich Brüning.jpg Zentrum 9 October 1931 30 May 1932 Brüning
Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath
Bundesarchiv N 1310 Bild-135, Konstantin von Neurath.jpg Independent
(NSDAP after 1937)
1 June 1932 4 February 1938 von Papen
von Schleicher
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H04810, Joachim von Ribbentrop.jpg NSDAP 4 February 1938 30 April 1945 Hitler
Arthur Seyss-Inquart
Bundesarchiv Bild 119-5243, Wien, Arthur Seyß-Inquart.jpg NSDAP 30 April 1945 2 May 1945 Donitz
Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
Ludwig Schwerin von Krosigk.jpg Independent 2 May 1945 23 May 1945

Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the GDR, 1949–1990[edit]

Political Party:   CDU   SED   NDPD   SPD

Portrait Party Term of Office Chairman
Georg Dertinger
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S88853, Georg Dertinger.jpg CDU 12 October 1949 15 January 1953 Grotewohl
Anton Ackermann
Fotothek df pk 0000173 047 (cropped).jpg SED 15 January 1953 July 1953
Lothar Bolz
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-64094-006-Teil 2, Genf, Aussenministerkonferenz, Ankunf Dr. Bolz (cropped).jpg NDPD July 1953 24 June 1965 Grotewohl
Otto Winzer
Otto Winzer.jpg SED 24 June 1965 20 January 1975 Stoph
Oskar Fischer
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-0901-038, Oskar Fischer.jpg SED 3 March 1975 12 April 1990 Sindermann
Markus Meckel
Markus Meckel.jpg SPD 12 April 1990 20 August 1990 de Maizière
Lothar de Maizière
Maziere.jpg CDU 20 August 1990 2 October 1990

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

Political Party:   CDU   SPD   FDP   Green

Portrait Party Term of Office Chancellor
Konrad Adenauer
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F078072-0004, Konrad Adenauer.jpg CDU 15 March 1951 6 June 1955 Adenauer
Heinrich von Brentano di Tremezzo
Heinrich von Bretano.jpg CDU 6 June 1955 30 October 1961 Adenauer
(II • III)
Gerhard Schröder
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F008145-0002, Gerhard Schröder (crop).jpg CDU 14 November 1961 30 November 1966 Adenauer
(IV • V)
Willy Brandt
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F057884-0009, Willy Brandt.jpg SPD 1 December 1966 20 October 1969 Kiesinger
Walter Scheel
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1989-047-20, Walter Scheel.jpg FDP 21 October 1969 15 May 1974 Brandt
Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1989).jpg FDP 17 May 1974 17 September 1982 Schmidt
Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Schmidt (13.07.1977).jpg SPD 17 September 1982 4 October 1982 Schmidt
Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1989).jpg FDP 4 October 1982 17 May 1992 Kohl
Klaus Kinkel
Minister Kinkel.jpg FDP 18 May 1992 26 October 1998 Kohl
Joschka Fischer
Joschka Fischer.jpg Greens 27 October 1998 22 November 2005 Schröder
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Steinmeier Cropped.jpg SPD 22 November 2005 28 October 2009 Merkel
Guido Westerwelle
Guido westerwelle.jpg FDP 28 October 2009 17 December 2013 Merkel
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Steinmeier Cropped.jpg SPD 17 December 2013 27 January 2017 Merkel
Sigmar Gabriel
Sigmar Gabriel 2015 cropped.jpg SPD 27 January 2017 14 March 2018
Heiko Maas
2017-03-26 Heiko Maas by Sandro Halank–4.jpg SPD 14 March 2018 Incumbent Merkel


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

External links[edit]