Ludwig Erhard, the man who was singlehandedly responsible for the revival of West Germany after the World War II, was born on February 4, 1897, in Fürth, Germany. Erhard hailed from a peasant family, his father Wilhelm was a Catholic and mother, Augusta was a Protestant who raised her children to be Protestants as well. Wilhelm Erhard was a follower of Eugen Richter and his liberal party, and Ludwig often accompanied his father to political meetings, where the ongoing debates had a long lasting impact in shaping his political ideologies. In 1903, Erhard was enrolled in the Volksschule, the primary school, in Fürth. He was not an exceptionally bright student and after receiving mediocre grades, in 1907, Erhard attended the Fürth’s Royal Bavarian Vocational High School. Ludwig did not show the promise of academic achievement and therefore he was content with joining his father’s clothing business. Ludwig was at peace with his choices, completely unaware of the political movements and agitations taking place around him. However, this was to change as the World War I drew near.
He served in the war as a sergeant and was badly inflicted with wounds. The war changed perceptions and his began to take life more seriously. He studied economics and sociology at University of Frankfurt and after receiving his doctorate, he devoted his time to research. He was offered a position at the Nürnberg Business School where he served from 1928 to 1942, being promoted from research assistant to director of the institution. However, the advent of the World War II brought yet another change to his peacefully constructed world, the Nazis removed him from this position, as he refused to give his allegiance to the party. He spent the war years working as an advisor to businesses.
Following the war, Ludwig Erhard had an extremely important role to play as the Allies looked at him as a favourable candidate for administrative posts because of his lack of allegiance to the Nazi’s and his reputation as an economic expert. His first task was to administer the reconstruction of the war-torn industries of his birthplace, the Fürth-Nürnberg area. Later, in 1945, he was given the post of Economics minister in the Bavarian state government. After losing this post in 1947, Erhard served as an economics adviser in Middle and Upper Franconia, later in 1947 he became director of the Advisory Committee for Money and Credit and in 1948 he was appointed as the director of the economic council for the joint Anglo-U.S. occupation zone. His reforms such as the abolition of rationing and other commercial restrictions began reviving the dead German economy.
From September 1949, he served as the economics minister of the new Federal Republic of Germany and continued to apply his policies of reconstruction. His policy of “social market system” which mainly comprised of price cutting, free market capitalism, and special provisions for housing and farming, did wonders to solve the problem of poverty and the German economy grew rapidly and prosperity spread all over the nation. According to the Germans, Ludwig performed an ‘Economic miracle.
Due to his success in rejuvenating the economy, in 1957 Ludwig Erhard was appointed federal vice-chancellor and later, in 1963, he succeeded Adenauer as chancellor. During his tenure as Chancellor, he had to face countless hurdles and criticism due to an unsettled foreign policy, and a budget deficit. He was forced to resign in 1966, when his decision of raising taxes to deal with a slight recession in the summer of 1966 met with immense disapproval of the cabinet members. In 1967 he was appointed as an honorary chairman of the Christian Democratic Union and he continued his political work as a member of the West German parliament till his death on May 5, 1977.