Norbert Blüm

Norbert Blüm (21 July 1935 – 23 April 2020)[1][2][3][4] was a German politician who served as a federal legislator from North Rhine-Westphalia, chairman of the CDU North Rhine-Westphalia (1987–1999), and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs.

Norbert Blüm
KAS-Blüm, Norbert-Bild-20245-1 (cropped).jpg
Norbert Blüm in 1987
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
In office
4 October 1982 – 27 October 1998
ChancellorHelmut Kohl
Preceded byHeinz Westphal
Succeeded byWalter Riester
Member of the Bundestag
for Rhineland-Palatinate
In office
Member of the Bundestag
for North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
Personal details
Born(1935-07-21)21 July 1935
Rüsselsheim, Hesse, Germany
Died23 April 2020(2020-04-23) (aged 84)
Bonn, Germany
Political partyCDU
Marita Blüm (née Binger) (m. 1964)
AwardsMünchhausen Prize (2000)
Leipzig Human Rights Award (2001)
Leopold Kunschak Prize (2005)
Norbert Blüm (left) with Richard von Weizsäcker in 1978
Norbert Blüm in 1986

Blüm was the only cabinet member who served in his function for all sixteen years of Helmut Kohl's time as Chancellor of Germany. He served as a member of the Bundestag from 1972 to 1981 and again from 1983 to 2002. Blüm was part of the left wing of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Rüsselsheim, Blüm attended the Volksschule. In 1950, aged 15, Blüm joined the CDU.[5] He trained and worked locally as a toolmaker for Opel from 1949 to 1957.[6] He was engaged in the factory as a youth representative.[6] During this time, he was a founding member of the local Boy Scouts affiliation, the Deutsche Pfadfinderschaft Sankt Georg.[7] In 1961 he passed his Abitur at an Abendgymnasium in Mainz, thereby obtaining the university entrance qualification.

He studied German language and literature, history, philosophy and theology at the University of Bonn and University of Cologne until 1967.[6] One of his teachers was Joseph Ratzinger.[8] In 1967, he received his doctorate of philosophy (PhD) in Bonn with the dissertation Willenslehre und Soziallehre bei Ferdinand Tönnies. Ein Beitrag zum Verständnis von "Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft".[6][9]


From 1977 to 1987 Blüm was chairman of the Christian Democratic Employees' Association.[4] He was a member of the CDU federal executive committee from 1969 to 2000. He was chairman of the CDU of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia from 1987 to 1999.

Blüm was a member of the Bundestag for the CDU from 1972 to 1981 and from 1983 to 2002.[5] From 1981 to 1982 he was Senator of Berlin.[6] He was vice chairman of the federal CDU from 1981 to 1990 and again from 1992 to 2000.[6]

Blüm was Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs from 1982 to 1998.[4] As minister, he was responsible for reforms and changes in the pension system.[10] His greatest political success was the introduction of long-term care insurance (Pflegeversicherung) in 1995,[2][5] after those reform plans were hotly and controversially debated in the Bundestag.[11]

Political positionsEdit

Blüm adhered to Christian values and belonged to the left wing of the generally centre-right CDU.[10] Blüm was strongly influenced by the Jesuit social philosopher Oswald von Nell-Breuning, one of the founders of the modern Catholic social teaching who lectured in Frankfurt. Nell-Breuning taught Blüm about the main three pillars "subsidiarity", "solidarity" and "charity".[12]

During his time in office, Blüm held out and pushed back against demands by fellow CDU politicians to raise the federal retirement age from 65 to 70.[13]

A popular quotation attributed to him is "Die Rente ist sicher" (loosely translated as: "Pensions are safe"),[a] based on the governmental slogan he wielded in 1986: "Eins ist sicher: Die Rente" ("One thing is safe: pensions").[2] This quotation quickly gained notoriety in Germany and became a popular target for comedy, as well as a cynical reference that would be used by his opponents and critics for years to come.[5]

The politician was a fervent supporter of human rights. On a trip to Chile in 1987, he accused former dictator Augusto Pinochet of torture.[8]

Blüm once said that "politics is a struggle". "Whoever is in search of harmony must look for another profession. (...) But if you want to change something, you cannot please everybody."[14]

Blüm (1990) giving a speech in the state election campaign of North Rhine-Westphalia

Core issues of his politics were social justice and the fight against unemployment. For Blüm, "the little people" were important, which is why he tried to prevent a division of society into rich and poor with his politics.[10] He saw social peace threatened by the Agenda 2010 that was later passed by the German government.[15]

Blüm was an outspoken critic of Scientology.[16] As a consequence, he was targeted by Scientology advocates, who would claim that the organization was a victim of religious discrimination in Germany.[17]

Despite his good relationship with Helmut Kohl, Blüm criticized his handling of the CDU donations scandal.[18]

After his departure from the Bundestag in 2002, he continued to comment on political issues publicly. Because of his criticism of Israel in the Middle East conflict, he was sometimes accused of antisemitism, which he rejected.[19][20]

In 2016, he criticised the CDU's refugee policy because of the cold-hearted discussion about refugees. During the refugee crisis, the former minister visited the Greek refugee camp Idomeni in 2016 and heavily criticized the EU's treatment of refugees ("This kind of brutality is unworthy of European culture"). Out of solidarity he slept one night in the refugee camp.[21]

In 2016 he opposed an unconditional basic income, on which Switzerland held a referendum at this time. It would be "unfair" and an "attempted escape from welfare state responsibility".[22]

Personal lifeEdit

Blüm was married to Marita Blüm (née Binger) since 1964.[2][23] The couple had three children, a son and two daughters.[23]

After blood poisoning in 2019, Blüm was paralyzed in his arms and legs.[4][24] He commented in a guest article for the German weekly Die Zeit in March 2020 about his new life in a wheelchair due to his paralysis, in which he compared his position to that of a puppet whose strings were pulled so that its parts dangled incoherently in the air: "Like a thief in the night, disaster broke into my life in the form of insidious blood poisoning".[25]

Blüm died in Bonn on 23 April 2020.[23]

Other activitiesEdit

  • Member of the Advisory Board of the Hans Böckler Prize of the City of Cologne[26]
  • Green Helmets, Member of the Board of Trustees[27]
  • Bonn Minster, Member of the Board of Trustees[28]
  • St. Maria zur Wiese, Member of the Board of Trustees[29]
  • IG Metall, Member (since 1949)[30]



  1. ^ Bundestag, 10 October 1997.


  1. ^ Lüke, Ulrich (24 April 2020). "Ein Großer der Bonner Republik". General Anzeiger (in German). Bonn. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d "Norbert Blüm ist gestorben". Die Zeit (in German). Hamburg. dpa. 24 April 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Früherer Arbeitsminister Norbert Blüm gestorben". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Munich. 24 April 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d "Norbert Blüm gestorben". Der Spiegel (in German). Hamburg. 24 April 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Hofmann, Gunter (24 April 2020). "Kämpfer für den Sozialstaat". Die Zeit (in German). Hamburg. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Lingen, Markus (24 April 2020). "Geschichte der CDU: Norbert Blüm". (in German). Berlin: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Norbert Blüm - Munzinger Biographie". Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  8. ^ a b WDR (24 April 2020). "Der ehrliche Arbeiter: Norbert Blüm ist tot". (in German). Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  9. ^ ISBN 9783890197296, OCLC 5735776
  10. ^ a b c Cordes-Strehle, Antraud (24 April 2020). "Kämpfer und Kumpeltyp". Cologne: Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  11. ^ Sanders, Katrin (21 April 2019). "Die Gefahr, durch Pflege arm zu werden". Cologne: Deutschlandradio. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  12. ^ Hank, Rainer (25 April 2020). "Der kleine Stier". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Frankfurt. dpa. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  13. ^ Mitchener, Brandon (9 November 1992). "German Public Spending Cuts Spark Infighting". International Herald Tribune. New York City. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Norbert Blüm: Die 'sichere Rente' bleibt in Erinnerung". upday News DE (in German). 24 April 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Nachruf - So wünscht man sich Politiker". (in German). 24 April 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  16. ^ Vehlewald, Hans-Jörg; Koelbl, Susanne (27 November 1995). "'Das ist Psychokrieg'". Der Spiegel (in German). Hamburg. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  17. ^ "Anwürfe aus Übersee". Der Spiegel (in German). Hamburg. 21 October 1996. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  18. ^ "Kohls streitbarer Herz-Jesu-Mann". (in German). 24 April 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  19. ^ "Norbert Blüm - Rummelboxer der Politik". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  20. ^ "'Bin ein Freund Israels': Blüm wehrt sich gegen Antisemitismus-Vorwürfe". RP ONLINE (in German). 21 June 2002. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  21. ^ "Griechenland: Norbert Blüm übernachtet in Idomeni - DER SPIEGEL". 12 March 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  22. ^ Diekmann, Florian (4 June 2016). "Schweiz: Warum wir das Grundeinkommen für (k)eine gute Idee halten". (in German). Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  23. ^ a b c "Norbert Blüm gestorben". Hamburg: Norddeutscher Rundfunk. 24 April 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  24. ^ "Norbert Blüm nach Blutvergiftung von Schultern abwärts gelähmt". (in German). 11 March 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  25. ^ "Was bedeutet mein Unglück?". 11 March 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  26. ^ Hans Böckler Prize, Kuratorium City of Cologne.
  27. ^ Board of Trustees Green Helmets.
  28. ^ Stiftung für das Bonner Münster Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, 3 May 2004.
  29. ^ Board of Trustees St. Maria zur Wiese.
  30. ^ Viering, Jonas (17 May 2010). ""Bald sind wir wieder bei der Tagelöhnerei" (Interview)". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Munich. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  31. ^ a b Schlamp, Hans-Jürgen (24 April 2020). "Der Rentenversprecher". Der Spiegel (in German). Hamburg. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  32. ^ "Einladung zur Pressekonferenz mit BM a.D. Norbert Blüm und Werner Fasslabend". (in German). Vienna: APA-OTS. APA. 11 March 2005. Retrieved 24 April 2020.

External linksEdit