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Willy Brandt


BRANDT, WILLY° (1913–1992), German Social Democratic politician and chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) from 1969 to 1974. He was born Herbert Frahm and immigrated to Norway after Hitler's rise to power, where he adopted the pseudonym Brandt. After the war, Brandt returned to Germany and started his political career, first as mayor of West Berlin, then as chancellor. His administration marked the beginning of a new era in German history. In domestic as in foreign affairs reforms were initiated. In 1971 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. From 1977 until his death he was head of the Socialist International. Brandt published several volumes of memoirs (e.g., Links und frei, 1981; Erinnerungen, 1989). In 2002 an edition of his collected writings in 10 volumes began to appear.

As early as 1933, Brandt was aware of the propaganda value of antisemitism for the NS regime. After the November pogrom of 1938 (the so-called Reichskristallnacht) he published a remarkable report of the event in a Norwegian daily. One of his close friends, Stefan Szende (1901–1985), a Hungarian Jew, told him about the murder of Hungarian Jews. But only during the *Nuremberg Trials did he understand the extent of this "biggest crime against humanity" (Brandt, Forbrytere og andre tyskere, 1946, 78) and its importance. Particularly emblematic of this insight was the gesture with which Brandt's name remains connected: his kneeling in Warsaw in 1970 in front of the ghetto memorial. The photographic documentation of that moment has become one of the icons of 20th century history. In June 1973 Brandt was the first German chancellor to visit Israel. Out of deep concern for its existence he was willing to act personally on its behalf (as in the Yom Kippur War); his attempts to mediate in the Middle East conflict in general, however, were without major success.


B. Marshall, Willy Brandt (1990); P. Merseburger, Willy Brandt (2002) (Ger.).

[Marcus Pyka (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

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