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Germany celebrates Willy Brandt 100th birthday: who was he?

December 19, 2013 at 1:39 am | News Desk

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Germany is celebrating 100th birthday of Willy Brandt, the Federal Republic’s first Social Democratic chancellor.

Born Herbert Frahm in 1913, Brandt is widely considered one of the greatest European statesmen of the 20th Century.

A staunch opponent of the Nazis, Brandt left Germany in 1933 after Hitler took power. In exile, Frahm began living under the pseudonym Willy Brandt, a name he later officially adopted.

After World War II, Brandt helped rebuild West Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD). He served as mayor of divided Berlin from 1957 to 1966, helping lead the city through the crisis sparked by the Berlin Wall. In 1969 he was elected Germany’s first Social Democratic chancellor since 1930. Brandt resigned as chancellor in 1974 when it was discovered that Günter Guillaume, a spy for East Germany, had made his way into the tight circle of the chancellor’s closest advisers. He remained the leader of the SPD until 1987.

Brandt is remembered by many for his efforts to achieve reconciliation between West Germany and the countries of the Soviet Bloc. This policy, known as Ostpolitik, contributed to him winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971.

In 1970, Brandt’s visit to Poland gave rise to what many consider a defining moment of his chancellery.

As he laid a wreath at memorial to the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw, he unexpectedly fell to his knees and remained there for more than a minute. The pictures of what became known as the Warsaw Genuflection traveled around the world, and became one of the best-known images in modern German history.

Brandt died in 1992 in Unkel near Bonn.

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