Navigation and service

Horst Köhler (2004 - 2010)

Horst Köhler 12 May 2011 © BPA

Childhood and early years

Horst Köhler is born in Skierbieszów, Poland, on 22 February 1943. His parents, German farmers from Bessarabia in Romania, had been forcibly resettled to Poland, which was in turn occupied by the Wehrmacht. Horst Köhler is the seventh of eight children.

During the war in 1944, the family flees from the advancing Soviet troops and settles in Markkleeberg-Zöbigker near Leipzig. Here the parents build a new livelihood for themselves on a small farm. Soon, the mother in particular wants to improve her family's opportunities. In 1953, before the uprising on 17 June, the Köhlers manage to flee to the Federal Republic of Germany via West Berlin. For four years they live in various refugee camps before finally finding a new home in the Swabian city of Ludwigsburg in 1957.

Köhler sits his university entrance examination at Ludwigsburg's Mörike Grammar School in 1963. He does his military service, signs up for two years in the armoured infantry and becomes second lieutenant of the reserve. He finances his economics studies through part-time jobs. In 1969 he completes his studies at the University of Tübingen and becomes an academic assistant at the Institute for Applied Economic Research. That same year, he marries Eva Luise Bohnet, a teacher from Ludwigsburg.

In 1977, Köhler obtains his doctorate from the University of Tübingen. His dissertation looks at the effect of technical advances on labour.


In 1976, Köhler joins the Policy Principles Directorate-General of the Federal Ministry of Economics in Bonn under Minister Otto Graf Lambsdorff. In 1981, he leaves Bonn for Kiel and becomes Advisor to Gerhard Stoltenberg, then Minister-President of Land Schleswig-Holstein, in the State Chancellery. When Stoltenberg becomes Federal Finance Minister with the change of government in 1982, Köhler leaves Kiel to return to Bonn, where he joins the leading officials in the Finance Ministry, becoming Head of the Minister's Office. Later he takes over the Policy Principles Directorate-General and the Finance and Credit Directorate-General, which is responsible for international financial and monetary policy.

In 1990 Federal Finance Minister Theo Waigel appoints Horst Köhler State Secretary. Köhler negotiates the German-German monetary union with the GDR leadership. And in Moscow he negotiates the agreement on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the GDR. He is chief negotiator for the Maastricht Treaty on European Monetary Union, as well as the Personal Representative (Sherpa) of Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl for the World Economic Summits of the then G7. Köhler organizes the World Economic Summit in Munich where Germany hosts the G7 in 1992.

In 1993 Horst Köhler leaves the Federal Government and becomes President of the German Savings Bank Association. He works to create a modern image of the organization and recognizes the particular responsibility of the savings banks for small and medium-sized enterprises and for the social climate in the municipalities. In 1998, Helmut Kohl asks him to become President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. The Bank's task is to build up the market economy and democracy in the former Eastern bloc states. Köhler changes the bank's policy to give greater support to small and medium-sized enterprises. Market economy structures are to be built from the bottom up.

In 2000, Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder proposes Köhler as the new Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, DC. Köhler sets himself the goal of making the IMF's work transparent and more geared to crisis prevention. So he steps up IMF cooperation with the World Bank under James D. Wolfensohn. Köhler is convinced that more has to be done to alleviate poverty if peace and stability are to be secured in the long term. To this end, he instigates far-reaching reforms in the IMF.

In 2003 he is awarded an honorary professorship by the University of Tübingen.

On 4 July 2004, Horst Köhler is sworn in as the ninth President of the Federal Republic of Germany. In the domestic arena, the Federal President is concerned above all with preserving and creating new sustainable jobs. In his opinion, Germany also needs a better education system and a creative approach to demographic change in order to regenerate itself. We now have an opportunity, Horst Köhler believes, to forge closer bonds between young and old in a more inclusive society. He also considers Germany to be a "land of ideas" with the confidence and unity required to shape its own future, a country that is shouldering its responsibility to be a force for good in the world and especially in the European Union. In the field of foreign policy, he advocates a human dimension to globalization with clearly defined rules. He is therefore a staunch campaigner for poverty eradication and the African continent.

On 23 May 2009, Federal President Köhler is re-elected for a second term of five years by an absolute majority of 613 votes in the Federal Convention in the first round of voting.

On 31 May 2010, Horst Köhler resigns from his office of Federal President.

Horst Köhler, Protestant, is married to Eva Luise Köhler. They have two children. Köhler has been a member of the CDU since 1981, but his membership was suspended during his term of office as Federal President..