Born as Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm in Lübeck, he joined the "Socialist Youth" in 1929 and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1930. In 1933 he adopted the name Willy Brandt and had to leave Germany for Norway to escape Nazi persecution. He visited Germany from September to December 1936 (disguised as a Norwegian student named Gunnar Gaasland). In 1937 he worked in Spain as a journalist. In 1938 the German government revoked his citizenship, so he applied for Norwegian citizenship. In 1940 he was arrested in Norway by occupying German forces, but he was not identified (because he wore a Norwegian uniform) and on his release he escaped to Sweden. In August 1940 he became a Norwegian citizen (he got his passport from the Norwegian embassy in Stockholm, where he lived until the end of the war).
In 1948 he began his political career with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in Berlin. From October 3 1957 to 1966 he was Mayor of West Berlin, a particularly stressful time for the city. He became chairman of the SPD in 1964 (a post he retained until 1987) and was the SPD candidate for Chancellor in 1961 and 1965 before winning the elections in 1969 after three weeks of negotiation with the other parties in the Bundestag. In the elections of 1965, 1969 and 1972 the SPD did well, but Brandt's domestic reforms were usually blunted by his coalition partners in the Bundestag or the resistance of local governments (often CDU/CSU). In foreign affairs Brandt had more scope to work his Ostpolitik and he was active in creating a rapproachment, of a kind, with the German Democratic Republic and improving relations with the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries.
His term as Chancellor was ended by the revelation that one of his personal assistants, Günther Guillaume, was a spy for East Germany. Brandt accepted responsibility and resigned on May 7, 1974. He was succeeded by Helmut Schmidt.
Kurt Georg Kiesinger
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