50 years ago Willy Brandt did something remarkable.
Obviously I am talking about him breaking protocol and kneeling at the memorial of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising 1944.
The Warsaw ghetto uprising so some of the worst war crimes which was brutally put down by the SS Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger ( consisting of criminals , similar to the Proud Boys of today) as well as the SS Division Kaminski made up questionable elements from the Baltics and Russia. Great people to have dinner with
But back to Willy Brandt aka the guy kneeling.
What is so special about him?
To start out, he did not have an easy life to say the least. Born out of wedlock ( which then mattered) he was wanted by the Nazis as a member of the resistance so he fled to Norway and then Sweden, changing his name to Brandt.
Post war he rose quickly in the Social Democratic party, becoming the mayor of West Berlin during the time 1961-63 when the wall was built and the JFK visit ( Side bar: Ich bin ein berliner= I am a donut).
His popularity swept him eventually all the way to the chancellorship of West Germany and here is where it gets interesting: he changed West german foreign policy away from being solely transatlantic ( this was when the US had sane presidents) toward gaining an understanding with the Soviet block, starting with accepting the new eastern borders of Germany.
Mind you, back then the wounds of the war were still fresh so Brandt came under fire from both sides : The far right in Germany for giving up what was perceived as german soil as well as the left for not doing more in terms of coming to terms with the Soviets.
Asking for forgiveness in Warsaw was a major step at the time.
From there on he started ” neue Ostpolitik” which eventually led to a relatively normal relation with East Germany and paved the way for 1989.
A major breakthrough in that regard was him ending the Hallstein doctrine which had stated that any country having diplomatic relationships with East Germany could not have relations with West Germany. Due to the economic power of West Germany, this was basically a tool to bully.
During his chancellorship ( which was ironically ended by a Stasi spy ( very clever, get rid of the guy who is actually supportive of your side) Brandt accomplished a great deal more than just foreign policy as he had accomplished several milestones terms of education policies, increasing veterans benefits as well as rebuilding the infrastructure .
But what always fascinated me about him was that he was very humble and understated ( did not have twitter!) .
His lifelong motto was: Man hat sich bemueht ( one tried).
During the pandemic, this quote has given me a great deal of strength.
Whenever things got tough be it in rebuilding the business, matter of health or simply keeping it together without going to jail I would revert back to Willy before going to sleep and ask myself: ” Did I do everything that is humanly possible today?”
And that is all there is, my friends.
See you next time!