Scheel, Walter väl´tər shāl [key], 1919–2016, German political leader, president of West Germany (1974–79). After serving in World War II, Scheel became interested in politics and joined the Free Democrats, a liberal party. In 1953 he entered the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, and subsequently won reelection several times. From 1961 to 1966 he served as minister for economic cooperation and development and deputy foreign minister in coalition governments led by the Christian Democrats. In 1968 he became chairman of the Free Democrats. When the Social Democrat–Free Democrat coalition government was formed in 1969 by Chancellor Willy Brandt, Scheel became foreign minister and vice chancellor (1969–74). As foreign minister he helped improve relations with East Germany and the Soviet Union. In 1974 he was elected to the presidency, a largely ceremonial office.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: German History: Biographies