Brandt School Universität Erfurt

A tribute to Willy Brandt

The Willy Brandt School of Public Policy is named in the honor of former German chancellor, Willy Brandt, who as a policymaker and as a person embodied the goals and ideals this school stands for.

Willy Brandt stands for a desire for change and reform – in domestic and foreign policy. The fourth chancellor of West Germany guided a series of social, legal, and political reforms – even in the face of stark resistance. His policy declaration challenged the citizens of the country to "dare more democracy".

In foreign policy, Willy Brandt wanted to establish a climate of confidence and reconciliation. The famous moment when he spontaneously fell to his knees in a gesture of humility and penance towards victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising became an iconic demonstration of the new Germany’s desire for reconciliation and established him as a figure of credibility.

Advancing from this point he sought new policies: Willy Brandt’s New Ostpolitik paved the way for reconciliation with the communist countries in Eastern Europe. True to the motto "change through rapprochement", he concluded the Warsaw-Treaty, finally recognizing the Oder-Neisse Line, and the Basic-Treaty which established formal relations between the two German states for the first time since partition.

While the New Ostpolitik won him the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1971, it was highly contested at home and cost him political alliances and sympathies. Only by a slight margin of two voices did he survive a "No Confidence Vote" as chancellor. Today, it is agreed that his policy opened up possibilities for German reunification.

Secondly, Willy Brandt was also the first west German chancellor to officially visit the GDR; his visit to Erfurt became history. During Willy Brandt’s overnight visit on March 19th to 20th in 1970, no treaties or agreements were concluded. However, something intangible yet significant happened. Being cheered by GDR citizens, Brandt’s visit indicated that the end to international isolation – triggered by his policy – posed dangers to the GDR regime. To this extent Erfurt might have been an hour of truth as the governing elite was confronted with the problem of how to avoid the risks that come to the fore when the fronts between East and West start to move.

After his chancellorship, Brandt played an important role in the North-South Dialogue: As Chairman of the Independent Commission for International Development Issues, known as the Brandt Commission, he called for drastic changes in the global attitude towards development in the third world. In the North-South report, issued in 1980, he addressed the world's problems from a collective point of view and showed the path towards a more equitable international order.

He had a keen understanding of the fact that the future would need to bring a more balanced relationship between developed and developing countries and that we must work towards this future. With this in mind, he introduces his second report Common Crisis with the words:

“A new century nears, and with it a new civilization. Could we not begin to lay the basis for that new community with reasonable relations among all people and nations, and to build a world in which sharing, justice, freedom and peace might prevail?” (Second Brandt report: Common Crisis: Cooperation for World Recovery, 1983)

Considering all of his accomplishments and his rich political legacy, the Willy Brandt School carries his name and strives to educate students in his spirit: Our students should become active and unwavering leaders and policymakers in a changing world, they should be capable of facing reality and bringing about a new one, they should be daring in finding new solutions to pressing problems, while always acting with a strong sense of responsibility.

Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F031400-0014, Erfurt, Treffen Willy Brandt mit Willi Stoph
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