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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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"
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.
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
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.
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