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Hanging on to Mutti

Neal Ascherson: In Berlin, 6 June 2013

... great exhibition hall at Augsburg could have been the gigantic Westfalenhalle in Dortmund where Willy Brandt used to speak at the climax of his election tours. That harsh, hoarse, painful voice seemed to be powered by coal and iron from the Ruhr industries around him. And now, forty years on, the SPD still speaks with a steam-age accent. Peer ...

Lectures about Heaven

Thomas Laqueur: Forgiving Germany, 7 June 2007

Five Germanys I Have Known 
by Fritz Stern.
Farrar, Straus, 560 pp., £11.25, July 2007, 978 0 374 53086 0
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... and knowledgable; when he writes, for example, about his distress at the vilification of Willy Brandt, the chancellor who had kneeled at a monument commemorating the victims of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto; or observes that his great friend Marion Countess Dönhoff, the aristocratic publisher of Die Zeit, still longed for her ancestral ...

Poland and the West

Xan Smiley, 15 April 1982

... this sense help if the Western package included a reiteration of the political commitments made by Willy Brandt when he launched his Ostpolitik in 1970. The Oder-Neisse line would again be recognised as the rightful western boundary of Poland. The division of Germany would not be contested, nor would the existence of Soviet military facilities in ...

When Kissinger spied for Russia

Phillip Knightley, 11 July 1991

Cold Warrior. James Jesus Angleton: The CIA’s Master Spy Hunter 
by Tom Mangold.
Simon and Schuster, 403 pp., £17.99, May 1991, 9780671699307
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... of suspects in the West became more and more outrageous. They included Harold Wilson, Olaf Palme, Willy Brandt, Armand Hammer, Averell Harriman, Lester Pearson and Henry Kissinger. They also included every Soviet defector who had come after him. These men had been sent, Golitsyn said, to discredit him because the KGB knew how dangerous he was to their ...

Say what you will about Harold

Christopher Hitchens, 2 December 1993

Wilson: The Authorised Life 
by Philip Ziegler.
Weidenfeld, 593 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 297 81276 9
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... all-purpose political conjuror and thug Trygve Lie. Yet there are honourable contrasts, such as Willy Brandt. In the whole of Brandt’s memoirs, the name Wilson is mentioned twice and then with a very pallid politeness. But when Wilson’s career began, it could still be said that British reformist socialism counted ...

After the Wars

Adam Tooze: Schäuble’s Realm, 19 November 2015

The Age of Catastrophe: A History of the West 1914-45 
by Heinrich August Winkler, translated by Stewart Spencer.
Yale, 968 pp., £35, September 2015, 978 0 300 20489 6
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... that tore the interwar SPD apart finally resolved. And it would be another ten years before Willy Brandt took office as chancellor. Rather than proceeding nation by nation, it would have been more revealing had Winkler treated the crisis of interwar democracy as a trans-continental phenomenon, with choices in one country conditioning those ...

Which is worse?

Adam Tooze: Germany Divided, 18 July 2019

Die Getriebenen: Merkel und die Flüchtlingspolitik – Report aus dem Innern der Macht 
by Robin Alexander.
Siedler, 288 pp., €19.99, March 2017, 978 3 8275 0093 9
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Die SPD: Biographie einer Partei von Ferdinand Lassalle bis Andrea Nahles 
by Franz Walter.
Rowohlt, 416 pp., €16, June 2018, 978 3 499 63445 1
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Germany’s Hidden Crisis: Social Decline in the Heart of Europe 
by Oliver Nachtwey, translated by Loren Balhorn and David Fernbach.
Verso, 247 pp., £16.99, November 2018, 978 1 78663 634 8
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Die Schulz Story: Ein Jahr zwischen Höhenflug und Absturz 
by Markus Feldenkirchen.
DVA, 320 pp., €20, March 2018, 978 3 421 04821 9
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... courts. Unlike in Italy or France, Germany’s social democrats had no rivals on the left. When Willy Brandt took office in 1969 as the first postwar SPD chancellor, he did so in coalition with the liberal, free-market FDP. The coalition governments of Brandt and Helmut Schmidt changed the face of the Federal ...

The Atlantic Gap

Neal Ascherson: Europe since the War, 17 November 2005

Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 
by Tony Judt.
Heinemann, 878 pp., £25, October 2005, 0 434 00749 8
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... Thatcher, who gets a page about her character and background – much more than De Gaulle, Willy Brandt or Khrushchev. This is curious for several reasons. First of all, because Judt does not like Thatcher, giving further space to describing the moral and social devastation he considers she left behind her (if there is anyone whose achievement he ...

Who Betrayed Us?

Neal Ascherson: The November Revolution, 17 December 2020

November 1918: The German Revolution 
by Robert Gerwarth.
Oxford, 368 pp., £20, June 2020, 978 0 19 954647 3
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... us? Social Democrats! Who was in the right? Karl Liebknecht!’)That was absurdity in 1968. Willy Brandt – nobody’s class traitor – was leading the SPD. But in 1918 and 1919? The revolutionaries wanted not only peace but a new kind of state in which the old ruling elites – the officer corps, the bureaucrats, the titled landowners and the ...

The German Question

Perry Anderson: Goodbye to Bonn, 7 January 1999

... understandable, though still very striking. Many observers recalled the popular enthusiasm for Willy Brandt’s victory in 1972, which put the SPD in power for a decade. The paradox is that the recent electoral upheaval, which did not generate anything like the same excitement, was far greater. There are two ways of looking at this. One is to compare ...

Günter Grass’s Uniqueness

J.P. Stern, 5 February 1981

... the German economic miracle, and this allegiance was later strengthened by his friendship with Willy Brandt. When, in December 1970, Brandt as German Chancellor went to kneel before the monument to the victims of the Polish resistance in Warsaw (a gesture that appalled the troglodytes on the far Right), Grass was ...

Getting it wrong

Misha Glenny, 24 February 1994

In Europe’s Name 
by Timothy Garton Ash.
Cape, 680 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 224 02054 4
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... which denied Federal German recognition to states which had already recognised the GDR, to Brandt’s Ostpolitik. As Garton Ash writes, It was not just in 1988 but already in 1969 that Brandt said: ‘I must confess that I have stopped speaking about reunification.’ In the short term, this could be seen as ...

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