WILLY BRANDT: A PriSoner of His Past by Viola Herms Drath

WILLY BRANDT: A PriSoner of His Past

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It is hard to recall a more cutting biography of any postwar political leader, American or European. Drath maintains that Willy Brandt was finished well before a spy scandal was used to push him out of the chancellorship last year. Brandt is presented as not merely an unprincipled intellectual lightweight and childishly promiscuous ""ladies' man,"" but also a fabricator of myths about his heroic WW II activities in Scandinavia. The record, suggests Drath, turns up little hard evidence of anti-Nazi accomplishments, but instead features accusations from numerous quarters that Brandt betrayed Communists and July 1944 plotters to the Gestapo, evidently on behalf of Anglo-American forces who wanted them out of the way. Written in an ebullient hectic style by the Washington correspondent of the West German Social Democratic weekly, Vorwaerts, the book describes how Brandt was groomed by the party's mastermind, Herbert Wehner, who considered Willy brainless but tractable and saleable. Brandt's original mentors, however, were the U.S. State Department officials, to whom he wrote long memos, extracted here, about how to contain postwar upheavals in Germany. Drath also interviews a range of politicians including a rather self-pitying Brandt himself. Brandt's affairs (his love letters, printed during an earlier scandal, are incredibly banal, says Drath) and his alleged one-night stands in his private railroad car make pathetic reading. More important, the book insightfully surveys West German attitudes toward detente policies. The choreographers of Brandt's fall, Drath suggests, may have been both the CIA and the stubbornly anti-American Wehner; Eleanor Dulles, in her introduction, agrees that Brandt was ripe to go. Brandt, the heavy drinker and tacky copy of John Kennedy, emerges as not only an opportunist but an unsuccessful one. Especially by contrast with the usual opaque, euphemistic studies of West German politics (including Terence Prittie's Willy Brandt, 1974) this is a humdinger for all manner of readers and doubtless a left hook for the former Chancellor himself.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Chilton