Count Otto Lambsdorff: Liberal Statesman
20 December 1926 – 5 December
Count Otto Lambsdorff
Count Otto Lambsdorff was one of the most remarkable politicians
that shaped Germany after World War II (WWII). He entered politics
in 1972 by joining the liberal Free
(FDP). He quickly became the FDP’s key
exponent of market-based liberal economic policies. In 1977, he
became minister for economic affairs. At that time, the FDP was
in a coalition with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).
His call for deep economic reform in contrast to the SDP’s
penchant for increased government spending contributed to the coalition’s
break-up in 1982. Lambsdorff was elected leader of the FDP in 1988
and held the post until 1993.
In 1995 he became chairman of the board of the Friedrich Naumann
Foundation for Liberty (FNF) which he led until 2006. In 1999, German
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) appointed Lambsdorff to lead
the German negotiation team that would create a comprehensive reparation
program for people who had been forced into slave labour by Nazi
Despite FDP being in the opposition at that time, Chancellor Schröder
turned to him due to his unrivalled personal network in the U.S.
political system and to the fact that he was one of the few active
statesmen who lived through and keenly understood the atrocities
of WWII. Lambsdorff managed the negotiations between the government
and businesses speedily and effectively. In recognition of the service
he had done to the nation in a major effort to address the country’s
historical crimes, the whole house of the German parliament gave
him a standing ovation when he presented his final report.
Count Lambsdorff was best known in Germany for his principled position
on liberal economic policies. His great oratorical skills, sharp
intellect and wit turned him into an effective advocate of the market.
His liberalism encompassed the whole liberal idea of freedom. He
felt passionately about human rights, and he even sometimes opposed
party leadership in instances such as the war in Bosnia and the
issue of Tibet.
FNF and Germany have profited greatly from his leadership. In him,
we have lost a statesman and a powerful advocate. He guided the
FDP when it led Germany in 1977, was its inspiration while it was
in opposition for 11 years, and saw it return to government in 2009.
We will treasure his memory and continue his legacy.