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Up against the wall

Neal Ascherson, 25 June 1992

My Life in Politics 
by Willy Brandt.
Hamish Hamilton, 498 pp., £20, April 1992, 0 241 13073 5
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... On 19 March 1970, Willy Brandt went out on the balcony of a hotel at Erfurt and the East German crowd roared: ‘Willy, Willy!’ Some famous photographs show him looking down at them gravely, almost in meditation. This was one of the grand moments in postwar European politics, or so it then seemed ...

Diary

J.P. Stern: This great wall has fallen down, 7 December 1989

... 1922] by the proto-Nazi Freikorps,’ not least because he was a liberal-minded Jew. But it was Willy Brandt who took the first steps toward a reconciliation with Eastern Europe, and made these first steps toward a better Europe possible. With a mere 11 years to go, the last bit of Germany is moving into the 20th century, the century in which ordinary ...

Gotterdämmerung

Christopher Hitchens, 12 January 1995

... something tremendously the matter with either a. your country or b. your circle of friends. When Willy Brandt put on the uniform of a country that was fighting his own – the action for which the German conservatives never forgave him – he was not thinking: ‘Pity about my friends, but I feel I have to betray my country.’ Nor, if he had elected to ...

Route to Nowhere

Peter Mair: European parties of the Left, 4 January 2001

The Heart Beats on the Left 
by Oskar Lafontaine, translated by Ronald Taylor.
Polity, 219 pp., £12.99, September 2000, 0 7456 2582 7
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... was to win office. From 1969 to 1982, the liberals looked to the left, and the SPD, first under Willy Brandt, and later under Helmut Schmidt, dominated government. From 1982 onwards, the liberals looked to the right, installing Kohl as Chancellor, a position he was to retain until 1998. By then, however, a new element had been introduced into German ...

Citizen Grass and the World’s End

Neal Ascherson, 17 October 1985

On Writing and Politics: 1967-1983 
by Günter Grass, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Secker, 157 pp., £12, September 1985, 0 436 18773 6
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Günter Grass 
by Ronald Hayman.
Methuen, 80 pp., £2.75, September 1985, 0 416 35490 4
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... their own weaknesses. There was an entirely unofficial slogan in those days which did wonders for Willy Brandt: Scheisse – trotzdem, SPD!, which might be translated: ‘Oh, God, not again – but SPD in spite of it!’ Perhaps Grass thought it up. It shouldn’t be supposed, though, that Grass has made himself universally popular. There has always been ...

How was it for you?

David Blackbourn, 30 October 1997

Man Without a Face: The Memoirs of a Spymaster 
by Markus Wolf and Anne McElvoy.
Cape, 367 pp., £17.99, June 1997, 0 224 04498 2
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The File: A Personal History 
by Timothy Garton Ash.
HarperCollins, 227 pp., £12.99, July 1997, 0 00 255823 8
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... had these existed. The great architect of Ostpolitik and the German Basic Treaty was, of course, Willy Brandt – who was brought down when it was revealed in 1974 that one of his senior aides, Günter Guillaume, had been an East German agent since the Fifties. Wolf is aware of the painful historical irony (Brandt, of ...

A Chance to Join the World

Neal Ascherson: A Future for Abkhazia, 4 December 2008

... with the Soviet Union, such as leaving Nato in return for reunification. It was only in 1970 that Willy Brandt decided to lead his country out of the trap by recognising the territorial results of the war and the new boundaries. The expellees threatened to destroy him, but nothing happened. The Allies, who had grown fed up with their own hypocrisy, let ...

Short Cuts

Mark Mazower: The Armenian Genocide, 8 April 2010

... Turkey for its religion, liberals can attack it for genocide denial. The odds on Erdogan doing a Willy Brandt and making public amends seem slim, especially since it is unlikely that such a gesture would actually tip the balance in favour of membership. (On the contrary, only the other day, Angela Merkel repeated her suggestion that Turkey should be ...

When students ruled the earth

D.A.N. Jones, 17 March 1988

1968: A Student Generation in Revolt 
by Ronald Fraser.
Chatto, 370 pp., £14.95, January 1988, 0 7011 2913 1
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Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties 
by Tariq Ali.
Collins, 280 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 9780002177795
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Sixty-Eight: The Year of the Barricades 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 464 pp., £14.95, January 1988, 0 241 12174 4
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Nineteen Sixty-Eight: A Personal Report 
by Hans Koning.
Unwin Hyman, 196 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 9780044401858
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... the American war in Vietnam: the same complaint was addressed to other Labourite statesmen, like Willy Brandt in Germany. At the same time, Wilson had to face covert attacks from right-wingers: it was alleged (and still is) that the British Secret Service was conspiring to remove this prime minister. The most blatant ‘Fascist’ move in the Britain of ...

Dreams of the Decades

Liz Jobey: Bill Brandt, 8 July 2004

Bill BrandtA Life 
by Paul Delany.
Cape, 336 pp., £35, March 2004, 0 224 05280 2
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Bill BrandtA Centenary Retrospective 
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... In the summer of 1927, 23-year-old Willy Brandt underwent psychoanalysis in Vienna in an attempt to cure his tuberculosis. He had spent the previous two and a half years in Switzerland, at the Schweizerhof sanatorium in Davos, where, along with the prescribed exposure to sunshine, good food and fresh air, he had undergone surgery to artificially collapse one of his diseased lungs, in the belief that this would give it a better chance to heal ...

In Icy Baltic Waters

David Blackbourn: Gunter Grass, 27 June 2002

Im Krebsgang: Eine Novelle 
by Günter Grass.
Steidl, 216 pp., €18, February 2002, 3 88243 800 2
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... and fought bitterly against attempts at political accommodation, notably the Ostpolitik pursued by Willy Brandt at the beginning of the 1970s. And who has weighed in now, with expressions of regret that the subject was too long neglected, but Günter Grass, whose novella on the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff has become a bestseller in Germany. At first ...

After the Wall

Peter Pulzer, 23 May 1991

Die Mauer: Monument of the Century 
by Wolfgang Georg Fischer and Fritz von der Schulenburg.
Ernst and Sohn, 208 pp., £22.50, November 1990, 3 433 02327 1
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... comprehension had reached a fatal level. The bilingual text which includes a long interview with Willy Brandt is by Dr Fischer, the superb photographs of the Wall that take up most of the book are by Count Schulenburg. It is dedicated to Dr Fischer’s uncle, murdered in Auschwitz, to Count Schulenburg’s father, executed for his part in the plot ...

Leap to Unity

Keith Kyle, 22 March 1990

... saying that there is no future in Europe for a social-market view of politics of a Neil Kinnock or Willy Brandt type. Such Social Democratic parties are in power in France and in Spain, and despite all Kohl’s efforts, the newly-founded East German SPD, led by Ibrahim Böhme, is likely to do well on 18 March. If it does, it will show that one form of ...

Nationalities

John Sutherland, 6 May 1982

Headbirths, or The Germans are dying out 
by Günter Grass, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Secker, 136 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 436 18777 9
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The Skating Party 
by Marina Warner.
Weidenfeld, 180 pp., £6.95, April 1982, 0 297 78113 8
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Sour Sweet 
by Timothy Mo.
Deutsch, 252 pp., £7.95, April 1982, 0 233 97365 6
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At Freddie’s 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 182 pp., £6.50, March 1982, 0 00 222064 4
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... rights and wrongs of membership of Nato; the nuclear energy programme; whether in the absence of Brandt, and given the too urgent candidature of Strauss, Schmidt ought to be voted for; the division of Germany? Decorum, or the sense of a diminished literary tradition, would probably inhibit the representative British novelist. The only way he could smuggle ...

Cute, My Arse

Seamus Perry: Geoffrey Hill, 12 September 2019

The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 148 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 19 882952 2
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... as he said, also ‘liable to bias’. The Queen at the wall in Ireland was not entirely unlike Willy Brandt at the Ghetto memorial. Whether ‘the ultimate reality must be anarchy’ who can presume to say? ‘Tradition is kindred’: perhaps that is true; perhaps a great cross-roaded mind has blundered: ‘nadir to nadir’, riches to rags; in ...

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