Willy Brandt
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005

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“It often takes more courage to change one's opinion than to keep it.”

“There is going to be a lot of plain-talking in this election,”

"In the global context true security cannot be achieved by a mounting build up of weapons-defence in the narrow sense-but only by providing basic conditions for peaceful relations between nations, and solving not only the military but also the non-military problems which threaten them."

" If survival is the top priority-and I can think of nothing else on which we could more easily agree among religions, ideologies and scientific viewpoints-then the preservation of world peace is our most important objective, dominating all others."
Willy Brandt -taken from his acceptance speech after winning the Third world Prize in 1985
(Pluto at zero degrees Cancer opposition Sun.)

"The struggle against the arms race, against the danger of a Third World War which would annihilate everything (or almost everything), together with the struggle against world hunger and underdevelopment remains the top priority. However the struggle for freedom and equality of nations is not a contradiction to that."

"A new understanding of defence and security policies is indispensable. Public opinion must be better informed-of the burden and waste of the arms race, of the damage it does to our economies, and the greater importance of other measures which it deprives of resources. More arms do not make mankind safer, only poorer."
(Mars in Cancer conjunct Neptune.)

While hunger rules, peace cannot prevail.

"Our Report is based on what appears to be the simplest common interest: that mankind wants to survive (...). This not only raises the traditional questions of peace and war, but also of how to overcome world hunger, mass misery and alarming disparities between the living conditions of rich and poor. If reduced to a simple denominator, this Report deals with peace."

An unusual burden accompanied me on my way to Warsaw. Nowhere else had a people suffered as in Poland. The machine-like annihilation of Polish Jewry represented a heightening of bloodthirstiness that no one had held possible. On my way to Warsaw [I carried with me] the memory of the fight to the death of the Warsaw ghetto.
(Mars in Cancer conjunct Neptune.)


Willy Brandt
October 21, 1969 – May 7, 1974
Born December 18, 1913
Died October 8, 1992

Political party SPD
Willy Brandt, born Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm (December 18, 1913 - October 8, 1992) was a German politician, Chancellor of West Germany 1969 – 1974, and leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) 1964 – 1987.

Because resistance from other political parties kept much of Brandt's domestic program from being implemented, his most important legacy is the Ostpolitik, a policy aimed at improving relations with East Germany, Poland, and the Soviet Union. This policy caused considerable controversy in West Germany, but won Brandt the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971.

Brandt was forced to resign as Chancellor in 1974 after it became known that one of his closest aides had been working for the East German secret service (Stasi). This became one of the biggest political scandals in German post-war history.

Willy Brandt was born Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm in Lübeck, Germany to Martha Frahm, an unwed and single mother who worked as a cashier for a department store. His father was an accountant from Hamburg by the name of John Möller, whom Brandt never met.

He became an apprentice at the shipbroker and ship's agent F.H. Bertling. He joined the "Socialist Youth" in 1929 and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1930. He left the SPD to join the more left wing Socialist Workers Party (SAP) which was allied to the POUM in Spain and the ILP in Britain. In 1933, using his connections with the port and its ships from the time he had been apprentice, he left Germany for Norway on a ship to escape Nazi persecution. It was at this time that he adopted the pseudonym Willy Brandt to avoid detection by Nazi agents. In 1934 he took part in the founding of the International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth Organizations, and was elected to its Secretariat.

Brandt visited Germany from September to December 1936, disguised as a Norwegian student named Gunnar Gaasland. In 1937 he worked in Spain as a journalist. In 1938 the German government revoked his citizenship, so he applied for Norwegian citizenship. In 1940 he was arrested in Norway by occupying German forces, but he was not identified because he wore a Norwegian uniform; on his release he escaped to neutral Sweden. In August 1940 he became a Norwegian citizen, receiving his passport from the Norwegian embassy in Stockholm, where he lived until the end of the war.

Mayor of West Berlin, Foreign Minister of West Germany

In 1948 he joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in Berlin. He became a German citizen again and formally adopted his pseudonym as his legal name.

Outspoken against the Soviet oppression of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and against Khrushchev's 1958 proposal that Berlin receive the status of a "free city", he was considered to belong to the right wing of his party, an assessment that would later change.

Brandt was supported by the powerful publisher Axel Springer. From October 3, 1957 to 1966 he was Mayor of West Berlin, a particularly stressful time for the city with the construction of the Berlin Wall.

Brandt became chairman of the SPD in 1964, a post he retained until 1987.

Brandt was the SPD candidate for Chancellor in 1961 and lost to Konrad Adenauer's conservative CDU. In 1965 he ran again, and lost to the popular Ludwig Erhard. But Erhard's government was short-lived, and in 1966 a grand coalition between the SPD and CDU was formed; Brandt became foreign minister and vice chancellor.

After the elections of 1969, again with Brandt as lead candidate, the SPD became stronger and after three weeks of negotiation formed a coalition government with the small liberal FDP Brandt was elected Chancellor.

Brandt was named TIME magazine's Person of the Year for 1970.As chancellor Brandt gained more scope to develop his Ostpolitik. He was active in creating a degree of rapprochement with East Germany and in improving relations with the Soviet Union, Poland and other Eastern Bloc countries.

A seminal moment came in December 1970 with the famous Warschauer Kniefall in which Brandt, apparently spontaneously, knelt down at the monument to victims of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The uprising occurred during the military occupation of Poland and the monument is to those killed by German troops who suppressed the uprising and deported remaining ghetto residents to concentration camps.

Brandt was named TIME magazine's Person of the Year for 1970.

In 1971 Brandt received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in improving relations with East Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union.

In West Germany, Brandt's Ostpolitik was controversial, dividing the populace into two camps: one side, most notably those expelled from formerly German territories, loudly voiced their opposition, calling the policy "illegal" and "high treason", while others applauded Brandt's move as aiming at "Wandel durch Annäherung" ('Change through moving closer'). Brandt's Ostpolitik policy did indeed help to break down the Eastern Bloc's siege mentality and increase the awareness of the contradictions in real-life communism/socialism, which - together with other events - eventually led to its downfall.

Political and social changes of the 1960s which paved the way for Brandt's chancellorship
West Germany in the late 1960s was shaken by student rows and a general 'change of the times' not all were willing to accept or approve. What had seemed a stable, peaceful nation, happy with its outcome of the "Wirtschaftswunder" ("economic miracle") turned out to be a deeply conservative, bourgeois and insecure people with a lot of citizens unable to face - let alone cope with - their Nazi past. It was mostly the students who accused the 'parental generation' of its Nazi past and of a way of life which was considered outdated and old-fashioned. Sign of the times was that - much to their parents' horror - a lot of students started to share a flat, went to demonstrations (where they were often sprayed off the street by police water-cannons) advocated and practiced promiscuous behaviour, declared themselves radical left wing, required of the Americans to withdraw from Vietnam and labelled Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara to be their favourite heroes.

How Brandt was able to win the people
Brandt's predecessor, Kurt Georg Kiesinger, had been a member of the Nazi party. Brandt had been a victim of Nazi terror. No wider could a gap between two chancellors be. Unlike Brandt, Kiesinger was unable to understand the students' political demands. For him they were nothing but "a shameful crowd of long-haired drop-outs who needed a bath and someone to discipline them". The students (with a sizable number of intellectuals backing them up) turned their parents' values and virtues upside down and questioned the West German society in general seeking social, legal and political reforms. On the domestic field, Brandt pursued exactly this, a course of social, legal and political reforms. In his first parliament speech after his election Brandt signalled that he had comprehended what made the students go out and demonstrate against authority. In the speech he claimed his political course of reforms ending it with the famous summarizing words "Wir wollen mehr Demokratie wagen" (lit.: "Let's dare more democracy"). This made him - and the SPD, too - extremely popular among most students and other young West Germans who were dreaming of a country quite different from the one their parents had "built up" after the war. However, many of Brandt's reforms met the resistance of state governments (dominated by CDU/CSU). The spirit of reformist optismism was cut short by the 1973 oil crisis. Brandt's domestic policy has been criticized of having caused many of West Germany's economic problems.

Because of these controversies, several members of his coalition switched sides. In May 1972, the opposition CDU believed it had the majority in the Bundestag and demanded a vote on a motion of no confidence (Mißtrauensvotum). Had this motion passed Rainer Barzel would have replaced Brandt as Chancellor. To everyone's surprise, the motion failed. The margin was extremely narrow (two votes) and much later it was revealed that one or perhaps two members of the CDU had been paid off by the Stasi of East Germany to vote for Brandt.

Though Brandt had remained Chancellor, he had lost his majority. Subsequent iniatives in parliament, most notably on the budget, failed. Because of this stalemate, the Bundestag was dissolved and new elections were called. Brandt's Ostpolitik as well as his reformist domestic polcies were popular with parts of the young generation and led his SPD party to its best-ever federal election result in late 1972.

During the 1972 campaign many popular West German artists, intellectuals, writers, actors and professors supported Brandt and the SPD. Among them were Günter Grass, Walter Jens, and even the football (soccer) player Paul Breitner. Public endorsements of the SPD via advertisements and, more recently, internet pages have become a widespread phenomenon since then.

To counter any notions about being sympathetic to communism or soft on left-wing extremists, Brandt implemented tough legislation that barred "radicals" from public service ("Radikalenerlass").

Around 1973, West German security organizations received information that one of Brandt's personal assistants, Günter Guillaume, was a spy for the East German state. Brandt was asked to continue work as usual, and he agreed, even taking a private vacation with Guillaume. Guillaume was arrested on April 24, 1974. For some reason, the West German government blamed Brandt for having a spy in his party. At the same time, some revelations about Brandt's private life (he had had some short-lived affairs with prostitutes) appeared in newspapers. Brandt contemplated suicide and even drafted a suicide note. But he lived on, accepted responsibility, and resigned on May 7, 1974.

Guillaume had been a spy for East Germany, supervised by Markus Wolf, head of the Main Intelligence Administration of the East German Ministry for State Security. Wolf stated after the reunification that the resignation of Brandt had never been intended, and that the affair had been one of the biggest mistakes of the East German secret service.

Brandt was succeeded as Chancellor by the social democrat Helmut Schmidt, who unlike Brandt belonged to the right wing of his party. For the rest of his life, Brandt remained suspicious that his fellow social democrat and longtime rival Herbert Wehner had been scheming for his downfall, but evidence for this seems scant.

The story of Brandt and Guillaume is told in the play Democracy by Michael Frayn. The play follows Brandt's career from his election as the first left-of-center chancellor in West Germany in 40 years to his downfall at the hands of his trusted assistant Guillaume. The play examines Guillaume's dual identity as trusted personal assistant to the West German chancellor and Stasi spy, and Guilliaume's conflict as his duty to Brandt's enemies clashes with his genuine love and admiration for the chancellor.

After his term as Chancellor, Brandt remained head of his party, the SPD, until 1987 and retained his seat in the Bundestag. Brandt was head of the Socialist International from 1976 to 1992, working to enlarge that organization beyond the borders of Europe. In 1977 he was appointed chair of the Independent Commission for International Developmental Issues, which produced a report in 1980 calling for drastic changes in the world's attitude to development in the Third World. This became known as the Brandt Report.

In 1975, it was widely feared that Portugal would fall to communism; Brandt supported the democratic socialist party of Soares which won a major victory, thus keeping Portugal democratic. He also supported Felipe González's newly legal socialist party in Spain after Franco's death.

In late 1989, Brandt became one of the first leftist leaders in West Germany to publicly favor reunification over some sort of two-state federation. His public statement "Now grows together what belongs together" was much quoted in those days.

One of Brandt's last public appearances was flying to Baghdad, to free some Western hostages held by Saddam Hussein, after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He died of cancer in his house on the Rhine and was given the first German state funeral since 1929. He was buried at the cemetery at Zehlendorf in Berlin.

Brandt was a member of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1983, and Honorary Chairman of the SPD from 1987 until his death in 1992. When the SPD moved its headquarters from Bonn back to Berlin in the mid-1990s, the new headquarters was named the "Willy Brandt Haus".

From 1941 until 1948 Brandt was married to Anna Carlotta Thorkildsen (daughter of a Norwegian father and a German-American mother). They had a daughter, Nina (*1940). After Brandt and Thorkildsen were divorced in 1946, he married the Norwegian Rut Hansen in 1948. Hansen and Brandt had three sons: Peter (*1948), Lars (*1951) and Matthias (*1961). These days Peter is a historian, Lars is a painter and Matthias is an actor. After 32 years of marriage, Brandt was divorced from Rut in 1980 and from the day they were divorced they never met again. On December 9, 1983, Brandt married Brigitte Seebacher (*1946).

In 2003 Matthias Brandt took the part of Guillaume in the film Im Schatten der Macht (lit.: In The Shadow Of Power) by German filmmaker Oliver Storz. The film deals with the Guillaume-affair and Brandt's resignation. Matthias Brandt caused a minor controversy in Germany when it was publicised it would be him who was so take the part of the man who once betrayed and later forced his father to resign. In early 1974 - during a holiday in Norway where the Brandts and the Guillaumes had embarked to - it was young Matthias (twelve years old at that time) who discovered first that Guillaume and his wife 'were typing mysterious things on type writers the whole night through'.

In early 2006 Lars Brandt published an biography about his father called "Andenken" ("Remembrance"). The book is not undisputed. Some see is as a loving memory of a father-son-relationship. Others label the biography a ruthless statement of a son who still thinks he had never had a father who really loved him.


Willy Brandt is the adopted name of Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm. Born in December 1913 to an unwed Lubeck shopgirl, he was raised by his maternal grandfather to be a fervent blue-collar socialist. As a teenager Brandt first joined the Socialist Party of Germany (SPD) in 1930, but one year later switched to a more radical spin-off, the SAP. In 1933, to escape arrest by the Gestapo, he changed his name to Willy Brandt and fled to Scandinavia where he was active as a journalist and in anti-fascist movements.

In 1945 / 46 he worked as a correspondent in Germany for Scandinavian newspapers and then became press officer at the Norwegian Mission in Berlin. Brandt was persuaded by fellow Social Democrats to apply for reinstatement of his German citizenship, which had been lifted by the Nazis in 1938.

Brandt, who is thin-skinned and sensitive, has often been called a "traitor" in West Germany for fleeing during the Nazi years. Brandt declares: "I did not regard my fate as an exile as a blot on my copybook, but rather as a chance to serve the 'Other Germany,' which did not resign itself submissively to enslavement."

In 1949 he was elected a member of the first parliament of the post-war West Germany that convened in Bonn. A fierce anti-communist and pragmatic socialist, Brandt quickly made a name for himself in the SPD serving as editor-in-chief of the social democratic Berliner Stadtblatt. In 1957 the SPD chose him as its candidate for the office of Governing Mayor in West Berlin.

At the 1958 Stuttgart Party Congress Brandt was elected to the Party Committee and he was prominent in the proceedings of an extraordinary party congress held in Bad Godesburg in 1959 where the policy outlook of the party was fundamentally adjusted in the so-called Godesburger Program which accepted that a social market economy had some advantages of and disavowed rigourously Marxist state ownership policies.

Journalist Egon Bahr, who was his press aide and who was to become his chief foreign policy advisor, began to propound the thesis that West Germany could influence developments within East Germany by establishing closer contacts with it. It was a concept that subsequently was expanded to include the entire East bloc. The turning point in Brandt's own thinking came on that fateful weekend of Aug. 12-13, 1961, when the East German state (the DDR) suddenly began to erect the Wall through the heart of Berlin to stem the outflow of East German refugees.

The Wall was a blatant violation of international understandings about free movement throughout the city, but the Western allies waited a full 48 hours before lodging an ineffectual protest with the Soviets. "Kennedy cooked our goose," said Brandt, and he fired off a blistering reproach to the President. (He later mellowed toward Kennedy, however, after the young President delivered his Ich bin ein Berliner speech in West Berlin in June, 1963.)

Brandt decided that if anything was to be done to ease relations between Bonn and East Berlin, the Germans would have to do it themselves. Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr presented their ideas regarding German and Eastern policies in July 1963 to a conference of the Protestant Academy in Tutzing. The basis of the "new Eastern and German policy", as it will be described, is the recognition that the European catastrophe began with the seizure of power by the National Socialists in 1933 and that Germany must accept the historical results. This recognition can lead to contact with the East European states in a climate of detente. The new policy conceptualized by Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr is circumscribed by concepts such as "change through rapprochement" (Bahr) and "policy of small steps" (Brandt).

It was the beginning of the later-to-be-famous policy of Ostpolitik, which sought to overcome the effects of the division of Germany and Europe on the basis of the recognition of its reality.

Among the early results of these policies were the Berlin Senates' signing in December 1963 of the so-called pass agreement with the DDR whereby permits were made available for limited visits by West Berliners to the Eastern sector of the city. The privilege was later extended to other citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Brandt was nominated the SPD candidate for chancellor in 1965. One of the themes of his campaign for the chancellorship was based on the view that - "There will never be any real peace until we come to a settlement with our Eastern neighbors." Brandt's 1968 book, A Peace Policy for Europe held that "The recognition is growing that the nations of Europe must and will not simply come to terms with being permanently divided by the conflict between East and West ... even fundamental differences of political conviction and of social structure need not hold back the states of Europe...from working together in areas of common interest for the consolidation of an enduring peace."

Brandt served as Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister in a West German coalition government between 1966 and 1969. His election as West Germany's first Social Democratic Chancellor in October 1969 was a marginal victory. Germany was however in the process of profound change and, by this time, many of Brandt's liabilities were converted into assets. Once in office, he swiftly began executing a broad diplomatic design that has been ripening in his mind for years. Less than six weeks after he became Chancellor, Brandt went to The Hague for a meeting of the six heads of government of the Common Market countries. Largely because of Charles de Gaulle's refusal to allow the six to admit new members, the Common Market was stagnating; there was feeling that it might fall apart unless it regained momentum. "The German Parliament and public expect me to return from this conference with concrete arrangements for the Community's enlargement," Brandt told France's President Georges Pompidou in open session. "Those who fear the economic strength of West Germany," he shrewdly added, "should favor expansion." Pompidou, who has come to regard London as a necessary counterbalance to Bonn, reversed his predecessor's policy and voted to reopen negotiations looking toward Britain's admission.

His Chancellorship became most renowned for the implementation of Ostpolitik and West Germany's further reconciliation with the outside world. In 1969 - a quarter of a century after World War II, no European peace treaty has been written, and, in a very real sense, the results of the war had not been resolved. In the West, Bonn had made detente impossible by refusing to acknowledge the loss of a huge chuck of its land to Poland and by stridently insisting that it would absorb East Berlin's Communist regime in an eventual German reunification. Willy Brandt was the first West German statesman reluctantly willing to accept the complete consequences of defeat: the lost lands, the admission of moral responsibility, and acknowledgement of Germany's participation.

Using West Germany's considerable strategic and economic leverage, Brandt tried to bring about an enlarged and united Western Europe, which would remain closely allied with the U.S. but would also have sufficient self-confidence and independence to form close ties with the Communist nations.

Brandt's government concluded a non-aggression treaty with the Soviet Union and also normalized relations with Poland, Czechoslovakia, and, finally, East Germany. What made Ostpolitik possible was the fact that Brandt's government recognized Europe's borders as inviolable, and furthermore that it acknowledged the existence of two states in the German nation. Even though formally Brandt did not give up on the objective of German unification, many Germans at the time seemed to have their doubts. For both East and West, Willy Brandt's road was potentially perilous. In the West, there were misgivings that Brandt's initiatives might end with Bonn's accepting onerous conditions from the Communists and getting little or nothing in return. In the East, there was concern that Brandt's policies would lead to more contact with the West than is either prudent or safe.

In this process, Brandt was implicitly challenging the Communist countries to expand their dealings with the West, and indirectly, to allow wider freedom for their own people. This challenge slowed the momentum of Brandt's diplomacy, but did not inhibit it completely. Opposed to the hard-liners in practically every politburo in the East bloc there were pragmatists who saw detente as a lesser threat to their continued control than the present deep economic difficulties. Those men argued that the only way to avoid domestic explosions was by securing more Western technological and economic help in order to revitalize their sagging economies and give their people a better life.

In 1971 Brandt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in improving east-west relations. In elections in 1972 the SPD led by Brandt gained its largest election victory ever. A dramatic anti-climax came in May 1974 when Brandt resigned shocked by the discovery that one of his personal assistants, Guenter Guillaume, was a spy for the DDR.

Until his death at age 78 on October 8, 1992, near Bonn, three years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Brandt remained active in German politics, the Socialist International, and as an international spokesman for better North-South relations.



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