Thursday, December 31, 2020

In fact, Brandt never said it - at least not there on that balcony of the Schöneberg city hall, where he appeared with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. Speaking to a tearful crowd and almost drowned out by cries of "Willy, Willy," the former chancellor and honorary SPD chairman actually talked about Europe, not Germany, growing together - and in significantly vaguer terms. Only later - long after the statement had become one of the key tenets of the reunification process - did historians revisit the famous speech and establish that Brandt had been misquoted. Nor does the quote appear in his memoirs. The words were actually uttered in off-the-cuff newspaper interviews that took place either before or after the speech and only later attracted attention. At the time, editors failed to appreciate their import and opted to lead with other, more general quotes from the balcony speech.

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