Mr Schäuble, do you remember December 13, 1972?
Was that the constituent session of the Bundestag?
yes, your first
Well, that’s something you remember when you attend a plenary session for the first time. I can still picture the gymnasium in Bonn, where the Bundestag met at the time. It was said for years that the building would soon collapse. That’s why we later urgently had to build the new plenary hall and move to the waterworks. By the time the new plenary hall was finished, it had already been decided that Berlin would become the capital and that the Bundestag would move. But back to my first session: the President of the Bundestag was elected by roll call, and Annemarie Renger from the SPD was elected President of the Parliament.
What . . .
Schäuble interrupts. If you’re suggesting it was a woman, I didn’t find that particularly remarkable. It was remarkable that the CDU and CSU no longer provided the parliamentary president. For the first time, the SPD formed the strongest parliamentary group and thus also provided the president. The next day, Willy Brandt was elected Chancellor. At that time, Kurt Georg Kiesinger and Ludwig Erhard were still members of the Bundestag. So I sat in the Bundestag with all the German chancellors, with the exception of Adenauer.
Did you prepare to be a parliamentarian?
The candidacy came as a surprise. I didn’t plan to become a member of parliament, but was chairman of the Junge Union in southern Baden. I wanted to stay in finance, where I was working at the time, and later become a lawyer. But then suddenly there was a federal election, and there was no candidate in the Offenburg constituency. The chairman of the Young Union in Offenburg called me at the time: The nomination would be in three weeks, but the Young Union had to fly the flag, and that’s why I had to run. That there was no other was somehow right. And then I said: OK, then I’ll start, it won’t work out anyway. My wife didn’t want me to become a member of parliament either. But then I surprisingly won the competition in the party – and later also the election.
Did your wife resent you? Going to Bonn also meant giving up a regular family life, seeing your then one-year-old daughter only on weekends.
I wasn’t in Bonn every week – and now it’s been 50 years, many offices and more children and grandchildren, and none of that was planned very precisely. On the first or second day after the election, they drove to Bonn for the meeting of the new parliamentary group. I rented an apartment together with Lutz Stavenhagen from Pforzheim. We set them up makeshift, not great. The most important thing was that we had a room to sleep in and always a case of beer.
As a young member of parliament, you came straight into the investigative committee that was supposed to investigate the bribery in the vote of no confidence against Brandt, a great opportunity. What did the elders in the faction see in you?
Manfred Wörner, the regional group chairman from Baden-Württemberg, who suggested me for the committee of inquiry, took care of us young people. Of course he recognized that I was a good lawyer, and he also held me in high esteem from our times together in the Baden-Württemberg CDU. One shows oneself simply by ability. There is not much more mystery about it.