Brandt, Willy

Brandt, Willy vĭlˈē bränt [key], 1913–92, German political leader. His name originally was Karl Herbert Frahm. Active in his youth in the Social Democratic party, after Adolf Hitler came to power (1933) he fled to Norway and began a journalistic career, soon becoming a Norwegian citizen. When Norway was invaded (1940), he was imprisoned briefly by the Germans but escaped to Sweden. Returning to Germany after World War II, he resumed (1947) German citizenship. He served (1949–57) in the Bundestag and (1957–66) as mayor of West Berlin. In 1964 he became chairman of the Social Democratic party and was named foreign minister (1966) in the Christian Democratic–Social Democratic coalition government headed by Kurt Kiesinger. After Brandt's party won the federal elections he became chancellor (1969–74) with the support of the Free Democratic party. His government initiated peace talks with Eastern European countries and with East Germany, resulting in nonaggression treaties with the USSR and Poland (1971) and the signing of a treaty with East Germany in 1972. Brandt was awarded the 1971 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. He resigned on May 6, 1974, following revelations that a close aide was an East German spy, but remained chairman of the Social Democratic party until 1987. President of the Socialist International in 1976, and Socialist member of the European Parliament (1979–83), he became honorary President of the East German Social Democratic party in 1990: after campaigning unsuccessfully for it in that year's elections, he remarked that the “so-called Socialist countries gave socialism a bad name.”

See his North-South: A Program for Survival (1980).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: German History: Biographies