Erhard Eppler (born 9 December 1926) is a German Social Democratic politician and founder of the GTZ.
Born in Ulm on 9 December 1926, Eppler grew up in Schwäbisch Hall where his father was the headmaster of the local grammar school. From 1943 to 1945 he served as a soldier in an anti-aircraft unit. He passed his A-level exams in 1946 and studied English, German and history at Frankfurt, Berne and Tuebingen universities in order to be a teacher. In 1951 he did a PhD with a thesis on Elizabethan tragedy, and after completing his teacher training, he worked as a grammar school teacher in Schwenningen on the Neckar from 1953 until 1961.
Eppler and political parties
Eppler became a member of the NSDAP in September 1943, at the age of 16. Later he spoke of this step as a "stupidity", but he also says, "It wasn't against my will that I ended up on some list" (of members of the NSDAP), "but I accepted it. Things were like that in those times."
While he was studying in Berne at the end of the 1940s, Eppler got to know Gustav Heinemann, one of the founders of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Heinemann became Minister of the Interior from 1949 to 1950, but then left the cabinet and later also the CDU together with several other party members who disagreed with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's policy of complete integration into the Western world. Eppler joined Heinemann's new party, the All-German People's Party (Gesamtdeutsche Volkspartei - GVP), in 1952, but like most members of the GVP, including Heinemann, he changed over to the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1956 after the GVP only attracted small numbers of voters in elections. The fact that active members of the Protestant Church like Eppler and Heinemann joined the SPD helped that party to overcome the prejudice that it was an "atheist" party, and that Christian values were only represented in the CDU.
During most years between 1970 and 1991 Eppler belonged to the SPD's National Executive Committee. He also chaired an SPD commission on tax reform, and a commission for formulating the party's basic values.
From 1973 to 1981 Eppler was the leader of the regional SPD in Baden-Württemberg. He was the SPD's candidate for the office of Prime Minister in that state, but his party was defeated by the CDU in the Baden-Wuerttemberg elections of 1976 and 1980.
Member of parliament
Eppler was an MP in the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Bundestag, from 1961 to 1976. Between 1972 and 1976 he represented the constituency of Heilbronn there. From 1976 he represented the constituency of Rottweil in the Landtag of Baden-Württemberg, the parliament of one of the states of which the Federal Republic consists. Until 1980 he was leader of the parliamentary SPD in the Landtag. On 30 June 1982, he resigned as an MP, after his election defeats of 1976 and 1980.
On 16 October 1968, Eppler was appointed minister for economic cooperation in the "Grand Coalition" government of Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) and Foreign Minister Willy Brandt (SPD). He continued in that office when Willy Brandt became Chancellor in 1969, but after his department was subject to severe cuts under the following Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt (SPD), in 1974, he stepped down in protest.
In his book "Not much time for the Third World", Eppler was one of the first to point out the connections between the protection of the environment and international development.
Eppler has always been considered to be an exponent of the left within the SPD. During Gerhard Schröder's second term as Chancellor (2002–2005), however, he supported the government's economic and social reforms, which were widely criticized as Neo-liberal (Agenda 2010). Moreover, although he had been close to the Peace movement of the nineteen-eighties, he supported the foreign policy of the Schröder government and approved of German participation in the military interventions in Kosovo in 1999 and in Afghanistan since 2001. But in spite of his general loyalty to his party's leadership, he was unhappy especially with much of its economic policy when in government.
After his retreat from federal politics, Eppler involved himself more in his work in the Protestant Church. From 1981 to 1983 and from 1989 to 1991 he was president of the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag ("German Protestant Church Congress").
He is also a member of the "Wacholderhof Association", which promotes international cooperation, fair trade, and environmental sustainability, and of the "Association of Protestant Academics in Germany".
Eppler's numerous publications show his political and social involvement, too. They deal with a wide range of subjects which concern the political situation in Germany, the economy, but also general questions of developments in politics and society. In 2006, one of his books on the role of the state was honoured with the prize Das politische Buch 2006 by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
- Die tödliche Utopie der Sicherheit. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1983, ISBN 3-498-01631-8.
- Plattform für eine neue Mehrheit. Ein Kommentar zum Berliner Programm der SPD (= Politik im Taschenbuch. Band 1). Dietz, Bonn 1990, ISBN 3-8012-0158-9.
- Kavalleriepferde beim Hornsignal. Die Krise der Politik im Spiegel der Sprache (= Edition Suhrkamp 1788 = NF 788). Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 3-518-11788-2.
- Privatisierung der politischen Moral? (= Edition Suhrkamp. Standpunkte 2185). Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-518-12185-5.
- Komplettes Stückwerk. Erfahrungen aus fünfzig Jahren Politik. Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1996, ISBN 3-458-16770-6.
- Eine Partei für das zweite Jahrzehnt: die SPD? Vorwärts-Buch, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-86602-175-4.
- Reden wir über Geld. Interview In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. vom 24. April 2009 (online).
- Der Politik aufs Maul geschaut. Kleines Wörterbuch zum öffentlichen Sprachgebrauch. Dietz, Bonn 2009, ISBN 978-3-8012-0397-9.
- Eine solidarische Leistungsgesellschaft. Epochenwechsel nach der Blamage der Marktliberalen. Dietz, Bonn 2011, ISBN 978-3-8012-0422-8.
- Links leben. Erinnerungen eines Wertkonservativen. Propyläen Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-549-07465-7.