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Who was Willy Brandt? The most accurate answer is a
peacemaking chancellor of Germany.
Brandt’s biography resembles an adventure novel. Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm was born in Lübeck. His mother was Martha Frahm, a single parent, who worked as a cashier for a department store. His father was an accountant from Hamburg named John Möller, whom Brandt never met. He was mainly brought up by his mother´s stepfather, Ludwig Frahm, and his second wife, Dora. Thanks to Frahm, Brandt became fond of leftist views, graduated from high school and university and at the age of 13 years became a political journalist. His first article was published in the newspaper Lubecker Volksbote. Herbert was a member of the Socialist Working Youth, a member of a Marxist group and then joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD). After the Nazis came to power, he emigrated to Norway taking the name of Willy Brandt. The alias became his second name that he preserved to the end of his life.
In the 1930s he came to Germany under the guise of a foreign journalist, speaking in Berlin in German with a Norwegian accent, was a war correspondent on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, in 1940 served in the Norwegian army, was taken captive by Germans, managed to avoid exposure and fled to Sweden.
In 1945, he returned to Germany as a correspondent for the Scandinavian press. In 1948 he was again issued a German passport under the name Willy Brandt. Since 1949 he was a member of the Bundestag representing the Social Democrats. In 1957-66 he served as the mayor of West Berlin. Brandt lashed out against the Soviet policy during the Berlin crisis of 1958, when Khrushchev demanded to turn Berlin into a “free city”, i.e. separate West Berlin from West Germany and in 1961 during the construction of the Berlin Wall. In September 1969, after the victory of the Social Democrats in the elections, he became the Chancellor of Germany.
In the history books Brandt is known as the author of Ostpolitik (Eastern policy). Until the late 1960s the Christian Democrats who ruled in West Germany pursued a policy of de-Nazification and made the country a civilized democratic state, but tried to gloss over the crimes committed in Hitler’s time. Wehrmacht generals were considered to be heroes. Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, who was found guilty of war crimes and, by the way, did not deny in his memoirs using scorched earth tactics and mass deportations of civilians from Ukraine, was an adviser to the Bundeswehr.
Personally responsible for the torture of prisoners of war, a member of the Nazi Party General Reinhard Gehlen became the first head of the BND – the German intelligence service. By the way, Gehlen helped numerous criminals escape justice, including Alois Brunner, an accomplice to Adolf Eichmann, later captured and executed by the Mossad in Israel. Semi-officially in Adenauer’s year this policy was motivated by the necessity to resist Soviet expansion. Germany flatly refused to recognize the legitimacy of the GDR and the loss of East Prussia, Silesia and Pomerania (the Hallstein Doctrine). Brandt made a 180 degree turn, recognizing the GDR and the Oder – Neisse line.
A symbol of the new Eastern policy was the famous Warschauer Kniefall in which Brandt, apparently spontaneously, knelt down at the monument to victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on December 7, 1970 during the visit to the Polish capital. Brandt virtually without words apologized on behalf of the country, admitted that not only “certain Nazi criminals” were guilty in the crimes of the Third Reich, but the entire Germany as a state.
Today, for the majority of Germans it is obvious, but then, according to an opinion poll conducted in Germany, 48% of citizens considered the chancellor’s behavior “excessive”. Interestingly enough, the press in the GDR simply ignored the accident. In 1971, Brandt received the Nobel Peace Prize. Many conservatives in Europe and the US criticized Brandt for “flexibility”.
The formal reason for Brandt’s resignation in 1974 was the so-called “Guillaume Affair”. The chancellor’s personal assistant Günter Guillaume was unmasked as a Soviet intelligence agent controlled by the GDR and sent to the West back in 1956. Brandt himself, of course, was not a spy and officially nobody accused him of betrayal, but as they say “an unpleasant aftertaste remained”.
It is important to remember that the 1960s-70s was a period of enormous socio-cultural changes in Europe and America, the era of The Beatles and the sexual revolution. Left-wing extremism was thriving on this background and society, especially Germans, was under the threat of a real split. Brandt’s merit is that he prevented the split, managed to hold in leash both the right-wing and the left-wing radicals and laid the foundation of modern Germany. It was precisely the Ostpolitik, the official rejection of revanchism and territorial claims that made it possible to reunite the country in 1990. For the fans of neo-Nazi rock bands Brandt is an agent of world Communism and Zionism. “One of Brandt’s consultants was Leo Bauer of the Jewish blood, who actively participated in the development of the “new Ostpolitik” – a verbatim quote from the right-wing extremist Metapedia. In the new Germany, however, these views remain the lot of a few misfits, which is certainly the merit of the late chancellor.
Following his resignation, Brandt did not leave politics, remained an MP in the Bundestag (and in 1979-83 – a member of the European Parliament) and served as the president of the Socialist International. Brandt lived long enough to witness the reunification of Germany and then died of cancer on October 7, 1992.
Brandt was not only a politician. He was the “Chancellor of heart”, as Spiegel called him. In Germany he became the first leader to amuse tabloids with numerous extramarital affairs (Brandt had 3 official wives and an impressive number of mistresses). According to Spiegel, they became the true cause of his downfall during the Guillaume cockup. There were rumors of sex espionage and pornographic photos of the chancellor. The cheerful Brandt loved wine and women.Printable version