Willy Brandt is one of the outstanding statesmen of the 20th century. His name is used synonymously with democracy and freedom, understanding between nations, peace, justice, solidarity and social responsibility.
Born in 1913, Willy Brandt was raised in the working class milieu of Lübeck which deeply influenced him. Already at an early age he was politically commited. After the Nazis seized power in Germany in 1933, he promptly offered resistance against the dictatorship. Forced into exile Brandt continued his opposition against Hitler's Germany from Norway and Sweden, where he worked as a journalist.
After the Second World War Willy Brandt returned to Germany in order to support the reconstruction of a democracy. In Berlin his political ascent within the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) started. As Governing Mayor of West Berlin he led the people of Berlin through the crisis after the building of the Berlin Wall. For his ongoing fight for the freedom of West-Berlin Brandt gained worldwide recognition.
In 1969 Willy Brandt became the first social-democratic Federal Chancellor and stayed in office until 1974. His government promoted domestic reforms. In foreign affairs, Brandt is a strong advocate for the European unification and implemented the so-called "Neue Ostpolitik". For his initiatives towards reconciliation with the Eastern neighbours Willy Brandt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971.
Willy Brandt remained chairman of the SPD until 1987. In addition, he became President of the Socialist International in 1976 and campaigns worldwide for peace, democracy and human rights. In 1980 the North-South Commission, which he chaired, presented a report that made path-breaking recommendations for global development policy.
He always remained a committed European and German patriot. When the communist dictatorships collapsed in 1989, Willy Brandt enthusiastically promoted the growing together of Europe. With all his strength he supported Germany's unification in 1990 for which his policies had laid the necessary groundwork.
In 1992 Willy Brandt died at his home in Unkel near Bonn after a serious illness. He found his final resting place in Berlin.