Robert Schuman's father, Jean-Pierre Schuman (1837-1900), was born a French citizen in Evrange, Lorraine, just across the border with Luxembourg. His mother tongue was Luxembourgish. After Lorraine became part of Germany in 1871 (Imperial Province of Elsaß-Lothringen), he became a German citizen. Robert's mother, Eugénie Duren (1864-1911), a Luxembourgian lady born in Bettembourg, became a German citizen by marriage in 1884. Although born in the suburb of Clausen, Luxembourg City, Robert Schuman was German by virtue of the principle of jus sanguinis; he took up French nationality only in 1919 after Alsace-Lorraine had been annexed by France. His mother tongue was Luxembourgish (at the time considered a German dialect), his second language Standard German. Since he learned French only in school (as every Luxembourger does) he spoke it with a Luxembourg/Lorraine German accent.
Schuman pursued his secondary education at the Athénée de Luxembourg secondary school in Luxembourg, a former Jesuit College. He then decided to study in German universities but the Luxembourg secondary school diploma was not valid in Germany. In order to be accepted, he had to pass the entrance exam (Abitur) at the Kaiserliche Gymnasium in Metz. Robert Schuman's university education in law, economics, political philosophy, theology and statistics took place in the German education system. He received his law degree, after studying at the University of Bonn, the University of Munich, the Humboldt University in Berlin and in Strasbourg.
After the death of Schuman's mother in a coach accident he might have briefly considered the religious life, but resolved to pursue a lay apostolate. Robert Schuman remained single and celibate throughout his life. Schuman became a lawyer, and was judged medically unfit for military call-up (he served in a civilian capacity during the First World War). He was a member of the city council of Metz as well as the German Katholikentag. After the First World War, Alsace-Lorraine was retaken by France and Schuman became active in French politics. In 1919 he was first elected as deputy to parliament on a regional list later serving as the deputy for Thionville until 1958 with an interval during the war years. He had a major contribution to drafting and parliamentary passage of Lex Schuman in French Parliament. Schuman investigated and patiently uncovered postwar corruption in Lorraine steel industries.
In 1940, because of his expertise on Germany, Schuman was called to become a member of Paul Reynaud's wartime government. Later that year he was arrested for acts of resistance and protestation at Nazi methods and was interrogated by the Gestapo. Thanks to an honorable German officer he was saved from being sent to Dachau. Transferred as a personal prisoner of the vicious Nazi Gauleiter Joseph Buerckel, he escaped in 1942 and joined the French Resistance. Although his life was still at risk he spoke to friends about a Franco-German and European reconciliation that must take place after the end of hostilities.
After the war Robert Schuman rose to great prominence. He was Minister of Finance, then twice Prime Minister from 1947-1948. His democratic 'Third Force' government prevented the revolutionary seizure of the Republic by Communists or Gaullists. He became Foreign Minister the later that year.
Schuman's government proposed the creation of a European Assembly, the first government to do so. This proposal saw life as the Council of Europe and was created within the schedule Schuman had set. At the signing of its Statutes at St James's Palace, London, 5 May 1949, the founding States agreed to defining the frontiers of Europe based on the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms that Schuman enunciated there. In September 1948 as Foreign Minister, he announced before the United Nations General Assembly, France's aim to create a democratic organization for Europe which a post-Nazi and democratic Germany could join.
In 1949-50, Robert Schuman made a series of speeches in Europe and North America about creating a supranational European Community. This structure, he said, would create lasting peace between States. On May 9, 1950, these principles of supranational democracy were announced in a Declaration jointly prepared by Paul Reuter, the legal adviser at the Foreign Ministry, his chef-de Cabinet, Bernard Clappier and Jean Monnet and two of his team. The French Government agreed to the Schuman Declaration which invited the Germans and all other European countries to manage their coal and steel industries jointly and democratically in Europe's first supranational Community with its five foundational institutions. On 18 April 1951 six founder members signed the Treaty of Paris that formed the basis of the European Coal and Steel Community. They declared this date and the corresponding democratic, supranational principles to be the 'real foundation of Europe'. Three Communities have been created so far. The Treaties of Rome, 1957, created the Economic community and the nuclear non-proliferation Community, EURATOM. Together with intergovernmental machinery of later treaties, these eventually evolved into the European Union. The Schuman Declaration, was made on 9 May 1950 and to this day May 9 is designated Europe Day.
As Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Schuman was instrumental in the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO. Schuman also signed the Treaty of Washington for France. The defensive principles of NATO's Article 5 were also repeated in the European Defence Community Treaty which failed as the French National Assembly declined to vote its ratification. Schuman was a proponent of an Atlantic Community. This was strongly resisted by Communists, ultranationalists and Gaullists.
Robert Schuman later served as Minister of Justice and first President of the European Parliamentary Assembly which bestowed on him by acclamation the title 'Father of Europe'. In 1958 he received the Karlspreis, an Award by the German city of Aachen to people who contributed to the European idea and European peace, commemorating Charlemagne, ruler of what is today France and Germany, who resided and is buried at Aachen. He was also a knight of the Order of Pope Pius IX.
Celibate, modest and un-ostentatious, Schuman was an intensely religious man and Bible scholar. He was strongly influenced by the writings of Pope Pius XII, St. Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Maritain. It was announced on 15 May 2004 that the diocesan investigation of the cause of beatification would soon conclude; this might have as its result that Schuman will be declared "Blessed" by the Roman Catholic Church.