Willy Brandt in Erfurt


On 19 March 1970, West German Prime Minister Willy Brandt visited Erfurt in Soviet East Germany. Like any politician anywhere, he found himself surrounded by photographers and other politicians, both Western and Eastern, both local and national.

But everyone was in for a surprise. Thousands of Erfurters mobbed him, too. He stood nobly in the window of the Erfurter Hof Hotel to wave, gazing caringly at the crowd. Interestingly, East German television did not air anything about his visit.

Modern-day Erfurters revere the memory of Willy Brandt for his courage in reaching out to them. They changed the name of the Erfurter Hof to the Willy Brandt ans Fenster, "Willy Brandt in the Window." The restaurant on the ground floor is the Willy B.

Seeing the cheering crowd of people and the now-familiar landmarks gave me chills up my spine. Erfurters took such a huge risk breaking through the police cordon to get closer to Willy Brandt.

For the Soviets, seeing them cheer for a Western leader must have been unsettling.