On a visit to Israel as mayor of West Berlin, Brandt was invited to view the great new Mann auditorium in Tel Aviv. Having expressed his appreciation of Israel’s naming the concert hall for Thomas Mann, the German writer, Brandt was politely corrected by his host. The hall was actually named for a certain Frederic Mann of Philadelphia. “What did he ever write?” exclaimed Brandt. “A check,” came the reply.
Willy Brandt rose from humble beginnings as the illegitimate son of a nineteen-year-old sales assistant to the position of being the first Social Democratic Chancellor of West Germany (1969-74). He was the most charismatic German leader since Hitler. His life reflects 20th-century German history from the Weimar Republic. He was Mayor of Berlin when the Wall was built (1961) and as Chancellor he initiated Ostpolitik, which established links with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and indirectly contributed to the fall of the Iron Curtain. As Chairman of the North-South Commission he drew the world’s attention to the plight of the Third World. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.