Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Brandt, Willy from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

German socialist politician, federal chancellor (premier) of West Germany 1969–74. He played a key role in the remoulding of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) as a moderate socialist force (leader 1964–87). As mayor of West Berlin 1957–66, Brandt became internationally known during the Berlin Wall crisis of 1961. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1971 for his contribution towards reconciliation between West and East Germany.

In the ‘grand coalition’ 1966–69, Brandt served as foreign minister and introduced Ostpolitik, a policy of reconciliation between East and West Europe, which was continued when he became federal chancellor in 1969 and culminated in the 1972 signing of the Basic Treaty with East Germany. He chaired the Brandt Commission into the problems of the developing world 1977–83 and was a member of the European Parliament 1979–83.

Brandt was born in Lübeck, and joined the SPD at 17. A fervent anti-Nazi, he changed his name when he fled to Norway in 1933, where he took Norwegian citizenship, attended Oslo University, and worked as a journalist. On the German occupation of Norway in 1940 he went to Sweden, where he continued as a journalist, supporting the anti-Nazi resistance movement. He returned to West Germany in 1945 and entered the Bundestag (federal parliament) in 1949. He resigned from the chancellorship in 1974, following the discovery that a close aide, Gunther Guillaume, had been an East German spy.

Brandt continued to wield considerable influence in the SPD, particularly over the party's radical left wing. The Brandt Commission on the developing world produced the notable report ‘North–South: A Programme for Survival’ (1980), which advocated urgent action by the rich North to improve conditions in the poorer southern hemisphere.

He had not expected his Ostpolitik to bring about the reunion of Germany so speedily but fortunately lived to see it happen. From 1976 he was president of the Socialist International (SI) but was too ill to attend its 1992 meeting in Berlin, where he was buried after his death later that year.

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Brandt, Willy (1913 - 1992)
A Dictionary of Contemporary History - 1945 to the present

Born illegitimate with the name of Herbert Frahm in the Baltic port of Lübeck, he spent much of his youth in socialist...

Full text Article Brandt, Willy
Germany and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History

b. December 18, 1913; Lübeck d. October 8, 1992; Unkel, North Rhine Westfalia Mayor of West Berlin (1957-1966), foreign secretary of the Federal...

Full text Article Brandt, Willy
Philip's Encyclopedia

1913-92 German politician, chancellor of West Germany (1969-74), b. Karl Herbert Frahm. An active Social Democrat, he fled to Norway and then...

See more from Credo