The lectern where speeches were held.
The exciting story of Willy Brandt.

A Multimedia Exhibition

The exhibition in the Willy Brandt House Lübeck takes your wishes and interests into consideration. Here, you yourself can determine which aspects of the extremely varied and exciting life of Willy Brandt or which key historical events you would like to look into.

The interactive admission ticket allows you to take a fascinating tour through history. At various stations along the way you can use the ticket to call up specific texts, films and sound documents by or about Willy Brandt, for example secret letters and illegal flyers that he sent from his exile or TV shots of the failed vote of no-confidence in 1972. You can become active yourself and sit at the government bench or at the lectern where speeches were held. Or you can take a seat in a German-German living room and follow the contradicting news reports on East and West German television in divided Germany. Children are offered their own programme (German language) that tells the exciting story of how the son of a worker came to become a politician highly esteemed around the world.

Take a look at the individual chapters described here.

Childhood and Youth

Exploring working class life in Lübeck.
The rise of National Socialism.

The first part of the exhibition deals with Willy Brandt’s childhood and youth in Lübeck. The sliding metal ship’s walls give insight into the everyday life of the workers and the working - class milieu in Lübeck, while on the opposite side key background information about the Weimar Republic is displayed on glass. In the centre of the room you can sit down in Willy Brandt’s boyhood room, browse through the books he read as a boy or leaf through the family album. While you are reading or when you are finished, you can listen to what Willy Brandt later thought about the time he spent at the “Johanneum” secondary school or the resistance to the Nazi regime. For children Billy the Cat tells about his experiences with Willy Brandt.

You will see what it meant to grow up in the Lübeck working - class milieu in the 1920s. For when Willy Brandt still had the name of Herbert Frahm, the world was anything but in order. In the first German republic there was a distinct lack of genuine democrats, the population suffered under the economic plight, and it was a difficult time. Young Herbert experienced his childhood as the illegitimate son of an ordinary saleswoman at the home of his grandfather; the years of his youth were marked by his upper middle - class school, the labour movement and the political struggle against the rise of National Socialism.

Before you accompany Willy Brandt to his exile in Norway and thus to the next room, you should not miss the moving description of the first boycotts of the Jewish businesses in Lübeck and the persecution and murder of local democratic politicians such as Julius Leber.

Resistance and Exile

The large bright foyer.
As Norwegian student in Berlin 1936.

The large bright foyer of the Willy Brandt House Lübeck is perfectly designed to represent Willy Brandt’s exile in Norway and Sweden. Here you can learn about Brandt’s journalistic struggle for a democratic and peaceable Germany. Follow his journeys in the years of the National - Socialist dictatorship through half of Europe, to Barcelona, Prague and Paris, for example, but also to Berlin.

The covert letters and smuggled newspaper articles, his weapons in this struggle, are vividly presented in the exhibition. You can discover yourself how such coded messages function. And once again we hear Willy Brandt’s own words: listen to him reporting on fleeing the country and underground work, and read what he says about Germany under the Nazis. But it is also possible to follow his personal life in these difficult times by means of a family album: his first marriage to Carlota Thorkildsen and the birth of their daughter Ninja.

The contact with the Scandinavian Social Democrats in exile marked Brandt for the rest of his political life. Back in Germany he joins the SPD. After the end of the war he is appalled by the destruction in Lübeck, the misery of the population and the crimes of the National Socialists. So please take a seat on the wooden bench in front of you and relive what he experienced in Nuremberg as a representative of the Norwegian press, which left him shaken.

The Berlin Years

Pictures and sounds bring closer the Berlin Years.
Documents of the recent past.

Welcome to Berlin, the front - line city of the Cold War! In the midst of the airlift supply planes and the Allied Control Council, Brandt is first elected a member of the Berlin parliament and then in 1957 becomes the city’s mayor. On several monitors you can follow how difficult the role of Governing Mayor of Berlin could be and to what degree the East - West conflict determined the fate of the city in those years.

Our electronic ticket allows you to call up your own individual selection of film excerpts according to your interests. Look and listen to Brandt’s speech on the Berlin ultimatum or the coverage of the famous Kennedy visit to the city, or sit in a living room and compare East and West German television or test your knowledge in an interactive quiz. Once again Billy the Cat accompanies children through the events in Berlin.

The construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 is the most difficult test that Brandt has to cope with during his term as mayor. He is disappointed that the Western Allies do not intervene, but in the following period can try out his “politics of small steps” for the first time, which later makes world history on the political stage. Here you can again leaf through the family album and accompany Brandt on his second marriage with Rut Bergaust.

The Government Years

Multimedia at the push of a button.
Election campaign 1972.

In the period from 1966 to 1974 society in the Federal Republic of Germany is in the process of considerable change. As Foreign Minister and Federal Chancellor, Willy Brandt exerts a decisive influence on these developments. In this section of the exhibition you can relive, by means of various media, the topics that preoccupied German society in this not terribly distant past, and you can also see how West German society assessed Willy Brandt’s politics. You can delve more deeply into a broad selection of topics from these times with the aid of newspaper articles and caricatures, news broadcasts and posters, photos and speech excerpts.

Key events from these years are laid out in a particularly lively way: treaties with the East and Brandt’s falling to his knees in Warsaw, student rebellion and the Emergency Powers Act, reforms and the Nobel Peace Prize. Take a seat on the government bench and re-enact all this with the help of audio stations and film monitors. You can take you place at the speaker’s lectern and listen to historic speeches you even have the possibility of repeating actual speeches with the aid of a teleprompter or you can practise your own lectures like in a television studio.

Finally, you can follow the ups and downs of an exceptional political career when Brandt wins the greatest ever victory for the SPD in early elections and soon thereafter hands in his resignation as chancellor in the wake of the Guillaume affair.

Global Commitment

Explore and learn in an enjoyable way.

After leaving office Willy Brandt continued to use the great esteem he enjoyed to realize his political objectives. These included his dedication to peace and the adherence to human rights. The largest room in the Willy Brandt House Lübeck is devoted to this commitment. Here children, young people and adults according to their respective needs are offered a lucid multimedial introduction to this topic, which is becoming even more important as time goes on.

When you follow Willy Brandt’s activities in the Socialist International and the North - South Commission, the importance of the human rights question today will become even clearer to you. The individual human rights are presented on red seating cubes. Wall projections provide a clear explanation of how Willy Brandt expressed himself on these topics. The exhibition especially wants to excite the enthusiasm of children and young people for this subject matter and encourage their active commitment.

In his final years Brandt could see one of his greatest dreams coming true: the fall of the Wall and the reunification of Germany. Experience with him once again the decisive hours in Berlin and see how he immediately recognizes the significance of the moment and expresses with great emotion: “Now what belongs together is growing together!”


How famous photographers saw Willy Brandt.

To wind up the exhibition we offer you impressions in a few large-scale portraits that evoke the many sides of the remarkable man Willy Brandt: his charm and dry humour as well as his melancholy, his energy and his zest for action, his emotional warmth and his occasional aloofness. It seems like it is possible to read all these battles and experiences in Brandt’s face, and so these portraits let his life pass in review once again, from little Herbert in Lübeck to the great elder statesman of world politics.

Before you leave the Willy Brandt House Lübeck through the garden and past a piece of the Berlin Wall, you can take along a bit of Willy Brandt’s humour, a satire and quirky interview that you can watch on the monitor. He could sometimes laugh heartily at himself and at the follies of the world.