Bundesbank commemorates Karl Otto Pöhl

The Bundesbank has marked the passing of its former President Karl Otto Pöhl in a commemorative ceremony. Karl Otto Pöhl passed away on 9 December 2014 at the age of 85

"Today we mourn the passing of an outstanding figure in the world of central banking who was instrumental in paving the way for European monetary union. He was not only a profound man but a man of considerable humour as well," said Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann before a gathering of around 150 invited guests. As Mr Weidmann went on to remark, Karl Otto Pöhl possessed the ability to think simultaneously in political and economic terms and to express himself accordingly.

With regard to German monetary union, he was not afraid to warn against implementing this particular step too prematurely. After the event, however, Karl Otto Pöhl argued: "The political reality back then was more pressing than economic logic," adding that, notwithstanding a few reservations on the matter, the Bundesbank had from the outset steadfastly stood by the German Government's decision to introduce the Deutsche Mark to the then GDR.

Stability-oriented stance

President Weidmann reminded those present that Karl Otto Pöhl was also initially sceptical about another major project: that of European monetary union. As President Weidmann pointed out: "At the same time, however, he was keen to ensure that this project was not solely left up to others." Thanks to his deeply held stability-oriented stance, Karl Otto Pöhl succeeded in convincing his fellow members of the Delors Commission of the need for an independent central bank committed to price stability and able to make decisions as the guarantor of a functioning (European) monetary union. The fact that the Bundesbank's independent status was subsequently used as the model for the European Central Bank was later described by Karl Otto Pöhl as his greatest personal achievement.

"My father was an independent-minded, tolerant, generous and stalwart man who achieved everything in his life through merit," said Moritz Karl Ulrich Pöhl, who went on to emphasise that his father was also a much respected figure both in the United Kingdom and in the United States, where people often approached him to praise his father's achievements.

Personification of confidence in national currency

Former Bundesbank President Schlesinger recalled the new touch that Karl Otto Pöhl brought to the Bundesbank's external presence during his tenure as President, remarking that as a one-time journalist, he had realised that the Bundesbank needed to move away from what could be seen as schoolmasterly lecturing to adopt a more accommodative approach when presenting its arguments to other countries.

"Karl Otto Pöhl set standards that will endure far into the future, a future perhaps less certain than some of us would like it to be," said the historian Michael Stürmer, further commenting that Karl Otto Pöhl was President of the Bundesbank in truly turbulent times and was responsible for making the Bundesbank more European despite some opposition. In Mr Stürmer's words, over the years Karl Otto Pöhl came to personify the German nation's faith in its national currency and, increasingly, in the euro as well.