On 15 November 1959 in the town of Bad Godesberg’s conference and convention centre, a special Social Democratic Party (SPD) convention adopted a new political programme known as the Godesberg Programme, by virtue of which the SPD took on the status of a major party. The Programme remained in effect until 1989.
The advent of political activity in Bonn also had an impact on the small town of Bad Godesberg, which until 1969 was a standalone administrative entity. The town was left untouched by Allied bombings, and its opulent villas and luxury hotels have prompted many embassies and diplomats to settle there. A large number of civil-servant residents also live here.
On many an evening, members of the Bonner Hauptstadtgesellschaft (Bonn Capital City Association) go to Godesberg’s municipal theatre – which upon opening in 1952 was West Germany’s first newly constructed theatre. Or people gather for a glass of good wine at Ria Maternus’s wine house, or chat at "Schaumburger Hof" down by the Rhine. At the "Redoute", a ballroom building dating from 1790, the "Internationale Club Bad Godesberg e.V." meets, whose first president in 1953, André François-Poncet, was France’s Allied High Commissioner.
“Bad Godesberg is by far the best thing about Bonn”, journalist Walter Henkels wrote back then, albeit somewhat ironically. The conference and convention center, built by Wilhelm and Dirk Denninger in 1955 in Kurpark, was the venue for a conferencence of Nato foreign ministers, in May of 1957.
In the annals of modern German history, Godesberg is strongly associated with one particular Social Democratic Party event – a special party convention that was held in the city’s conference and convention centre from 13 to 15 November 1959. Over 300 delegates were on hand to debate the party’s new political programme – the first since 1925.
The Godesberger Programme, which was adopted by a vote of 324 for and 16 against, distanced the Party from its former left-wing positions. This meant abandoning Marxism, shifting to a social market economy, endorsing national defence – and paving the way for the SPD to expand its base. Hence the Godesberg Programme cleared the way for the SPD to become a “major party.”