Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gerhard Schröder

Gerhard Fritz Kurt Schröder (born 7 April 1944) is a German politician, and was Chancellor of Germany from 1998 to 2005. A member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), he led a coalition government of the SPD and the Greens. Before becoming a full-time politician, he was a lawyer, and before becoming Chancellor he served as Premier of Lower Saxony (1990–1998). Following the 2005 federal election, which his party lost, after three weeks of negotiations he stood down as Chancellor in favour of Angela Merkel of the rival Christian Democratic Union. He is currently the chairman of the board of Nord Stream AG, after having been hired as a global manager by investment bank Rothschild.

Early career
Schröder was born in Mossenberg, today an outlying centre of Blomberg, in what is now North Rhine-Westphalia. His father, Fritz Schröder, a lance corporal in the Wehrmacht, was killed in action in World War II in Romania on 4 October 1944, a few months after Gerhard's birth. His mother Erika worked as an agricultural laborer so that she could support herself and her two sons.

Schröder completed an apprenticeship in retail sales in a Lemgo hardware shop from 1958 to 1961 and subsequently worked in a Lage retail shop and after that as an unskilled construction worker and a sales clerk in Göttingen whilst studying at night school so as to gain a high school diploma. He did not have to do military service because his father had died in the war. In 1966, Schröder secured entrance to a university, passing the Abitur exam at Westfalen-Kolleg, Bielefeld. From 1966 to 1971 he studied law at the University of Göttingen. From 1972 onwards, Schröder served as an assistant at the university. In 1976, he passed his second law examination, and he subsequently worked as a lawyer until 1990.

Among his more controversial cases, Schröder helped founding member of the Baader-Meinhof terrorist group Horst Mahler secure an early release from prison and the permission to practice law again in Germany.

Schröder joined the Social Democratic Party in 1963. In 1978 he became the federal chairman of the Young Socialists, the youth organisation of the SPD. He spoke for the dissident Bahro, as did President Jimmy Carter, Herbert Marcuse and Wolf Biermann. In 1982 he wrote an article on the idea of a red/green coalition for a book at Olle & Wolter, Berlin, which later appeared in "Die Zeit". SPD and SI Chairman, Chancellor Willy Brandt, who reviewed Olle & Wolter at that time, had just asked for more books on the subject. In 1980 Gerhard Schröder was elected to the German Bundestag, and wore a sweater to parliament instead of the traditional suit. He became chairman of the SPD Hanover district. In 1985, Schröder met the GDR leader Erich Honecker during a visit to East Berlin.

In 1986, Schröder was elected to the parliament of Lower Saxony and became leader of the SPD group. After the SPD won the state elections in June 1990, he became Premier of Lower Saxony as head of an SPD-Greens coalition; in this position, he also won the 1994 and 1998 state elections.

Personal life
Schröder has been married four times:

    * Eva Schubach (married 1968, divorced 1972);
    * Anne Taschenmacher (married 1972, divorced 1984);
    * Hiltrud Hampel ("Hillu"; married 1984, divorced 1997);
    * Doris Köpf (married 1997).

Schröder's four marriages have earned him the nickname "Audi Man", a reference to the four-ring symbol of Audi motorcars. Another nickname is "The Lord of the Rings".

Doris Köpf has a daughter, Klara, born in 1991, from a previous relationship with a television journalist. She lives with the couple. In July 2004, Schröder and Köpf adopted a child named Viktoria from St. Petersburg in Russia. In 2006, they adopted another child from St. Petersburg, Gregor.

When not in Berlin, Schröder lives in Hanover.

Schröder identifies himself as a member of the Evangelical Church in Germany, but does not appear to be religious. He did not add the optional phrase So wahr mir Gott helfe ("so help me God") when sworn in as chancellor for his first term in 1998  and accused the deeply religious former US President George W Bush of 'hearing voices.'

Schröder's plans after leaving office as Chancellor and resigning his Bundestag seat include resuming his law practice in Berlin and writing a book. He will also be retained by the Swiss publisher Ringier AG as a consultant. He rents an apartment in Berlin while retaining his primary residence in Hanover. As a former Chancellor, he is entitled to a permanent office, also situated in Berlin. He has also spent time improving his English language skills.

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