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Willy Brandt 1913 - 1992

The German Chancellor who knelt down in front of the Holocaust Memorial in Warsaw

Willy Brandt

Willy Brandt

Born Herbert Frahm in Lübeck on 18 December 1913, he was brought up by his maternal grandfather, a social democratic truck driver who introduced him to the world of socialism.

A member of the socialist anti-Nazi opposition, after 1933 and the seizure of power by Hitler he was entrusted to build an opposition cell in Oslo. Here he started being called as Willy Brandt, a name which would become officially his one in 1949.
In Norway, he kept on waging his press war in favour of democracy.
During the conflict in Spain, in 1936, he was sent to cover the war as a reporter.

In 1938, the Nazi regime expelled him and deprived him of the citizenship. This is why Brandt applied for the Norwegian one. Having miraculously escaped a Nazi roundup for wearing a Norwegian uniform, after the war he settled first in Sweden and then again in Germany.
Here he re-acquired the German citizenship in 1948, and the following year Willy Brandt became his official name.

Mayor of Berlin from 1957 to 1966, President of the SPD since 1964, he rose to the post of Chancellor in 1969.
His government was characterized by the Ostpolitik, leading to ease the tensions of the Cold War. In those times, in facts, Germany undersigned several treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland and a treaty with the GDR.

On 7 December 1970, while he was in Warsaw to sign one of these treaties, he knelt down in front of the Holocaust Memorial, in the place of the destruction of the town ghetto. His gesture, judged as “little patriotic” by many of his fellow nationals but spontaneous and heartfelt, moved the world. It was the first time, in facts, that Germany recognized its historical guilt towards the Jews and the Eastern Europeans.

In 1971, the Oslo Committee awarded Brandt with the Peace Nobel Prize.

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