PEOPLE AND POLITICS: The Years 1960-1975 by Willy Brandt
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PEOPLE AND POLITICS: The Years 1960-1975

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In writing, as in life, Willy Brandt eschews flourishes or exercises in self-aggrandizement, and his simple, direct style lends a rare sense of candor and intelligence to his memoir of the years in which he rose from Mayor of West Berlin to the Federal Chancellorship. This was a difficult period, marred at its beginning by the construction of the Berlin Wall, shaken by the disaffection of youth, continued Soviet bellicosity, the oil embargo, and the deceleration of Germany's ""economic miracle,"" and brought to a close by the government scandal that led to Brandt's resignation. But it was also a time of achievement. As leader of the first Social Democratic government in almost 40 years, Brandt advocated a new German policy toward the Soviet Union. His Ostpolitik, based upon the recognition of the political boundaries established after World War II, gained a greater sovereignty and independence for West Germany in its relationship with both East and West. Under Brandt, Germany completed its re-entry into Europe as a respected partner in progress and stability, an achievement decisively shaped by the deep sense of responsibility so evident in Brandt's memoirs. His keen perception of events and people is undeniable, and this volume is full of fascinating conversations with and perceptive assessments of the world's leaders--Brandt describes Kennedy, for instance, as ""an ultra-modern conservative."" His memoir makes clear how much his success was due to his unshakable committment to the ideals of a humanistic socialism, and his fearless insistence that the Germans accept responsibility for their history. As he said in 1968, ""Experience has taught me this: you cannot drop out. You cannot drop out of history. . . neither in good times nor bad."" And Brandt, himself, shouldered this burden when he knelt before the monument to the victims of the Warsaw ghetto. The unadorned description of that noble act is the most moving moment in the book. ""Oppressed by the memories of Germany's recent history, I simply did what people do when words fail them."" Such powerful simplicity reminds us that there is yet one statesman whose vision is broader than the narrow perspectives of political ambition.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Little, Brown