When Konrad Adenauer became Chancellor of Germany four years after VE Day, the Germans were at their lowest point in history. They lived in desperate poverty. Their country was partitioned and occupied. Their economy and livelihoods were destroyed. Millions of refugees struggled to return to their homes, or took part in the population exchanges, as post-war borders were redrawn.

As Chancellor, Adenauer did not give Germans hope of reversing the outcome of the war. He did not offer them victimhood or resistance to the Allied forces. Instead, within two months of taking office, Adenauer signed the 1949 Petersberg Agreement, giving up control of the Ruhr and Saar regions to the Allies and acceding to partition.

What Adenauer knew he was getting in return what is sovereignty for the new Federal Republic of Germany, and previously unthinkable partnerships with Germany’s former enemies. His ambition was to make the Federal Republic of Germany a stronghold of democracy, stability, and credibility through honest reconciliation with its neighbors. Bolstered by U.S. support in the form of NATO and the Marshall Plan, and deep economic cooperation with its ancient enemy in France, the Federal Republic of Germany went from occupied pariah to coequal member of the international community.

The results speak for themselves. The Germany of today is Konrad Adenauer’s Germany, one of the most prosperous, stable, and admirable democracies in the world.