Born Herbert Frahm on December 18, 1913, Willy Brandt was the main leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (1964-1987). From 1969 to 1974 he was elected as chancellor of West Germany or the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1971 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reconcile relationships between West Germany and the Soviet bloc. His most significant legacy was his policy of Ostpoilitik aimed at improving relationships with East Germany. His Brandt Report was an important measure for defining the North-South Divide in world economics and politics.
Brandt was political even as a youth. He helped found the International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth Organizations and aligned with the left wing Socialist Workers Party. To escape detection by Nazi agents, Herbert Frahm took on the name Willy Brandt and disguised himself as a Norwegian student. He married Gertrud Meyer to protect her from deportation. Together they hid in Norway and applied for Norwegian citizenship when the Nazis revoked his German citizenship. In 1946 Brandt returned to Berlin as a Norwegian citizen and in 1948 he joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany and gained back his German citizenship.
Brandt was mayor of West Berlin from 1957 to 1966. He began urban development with new hotels, office buildings and apartments. Brandt opened sections of the inner city motorway and established a major housing program. Pres. Kennedy saw Brandt as the future in West Germany, but in 1961 following the building of the Berlin Wall Brandt was openly critical of Kennedy.
Brand became Chancellor after the 1969 elections and he brought economic and domestic reform to Germany. He raised the education budget and allocated more funds toward housing, transportation, communication and schools. Despite his reforms, scandals plus the 1978 oil crisis brought his regime to an end.
Brandt died of colon cancer in Unkl, Germany on October 8, 1992. He was married to Carlotta Thorkildsen, Rut Hansen, and Brigitte Seebacher. He had four children and retained his Lutheranism religion, the religion in line with most Germans.