Fritz Kraemer: a Man of the Performance Elite
A speech by Friedrich Merz, Deputy Chairman of the CDU/CSU in the German Parliament, for the Berlin book presentation Fritz Kraemer on Excellence
Even today, in some quarters of Berlin, one can still see the extent of the wounds and destruction left behind by the Nazi regime and the extent of the losses to lament, in particular of Jewish families and of splendid personalities.
I would like to congratulate my friend of many years, Hubertus Hoffmann, on his book Fritz Kraemer on Excellence. Kraemer was a man who would certainly have become one of the new democratic intellectual elite in Germany following the Hitler regime. This fact is what that impressed and occupied me most during the reading of the book.
Even in the first paragraph of the contribution by Henry Kissinger, the word "values" occurs. Values are precisely what characterize this book from the first page to the last—a book about a man with values, and about a man who lived them. He did not belong to an ancestral elite, but to a performance elite. His grounding consisted of three terms: substance, excellence, and character. We find this in all of the stations of his life. And out of this arose the conflict with his pupil Henry Kissinger. Fritz Kraemer lived the role of a moral ethicist, his pupil the role of a practical politician with an ethic of responsibility who had to accept essential compromises, the judgment of which must be left to history. Both of them, however, are distinguished by independence of thought and action.
There are indeed some parallels to today’s world in the contents of this book:
First of all, there is Kraemer’s commitment to serving both the state and society—the demand not to first consider one’s own needs, but to first think of the democratic community and to be of service to it.
Weakness provokes, only strength stabilizes peace. That was certainly the most important and pragmatic thinking to shape American postwar politics and the transatlantic relationship.
Had this American policy—inspired by Fritz Kraemer in the Pentagon—not been persistently maintained and held on to for four decades, we would not be standing here today in the historic building of the Parliamentary Society in Berlin, which stood exactly at the wall in East Berlin. After 1989, we would have stayed in Bonn with the German Bundestag because Germany would still be divided. The 9th of November, the day of the fall of the Berlin wall, should also be a day of gratitude to our French, British, and American friends who never let themselves be distracted from this course.