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More info (wiki). Brandt was one of Germany’s best chancellors, and his spontaneous kneefall (I know it’s not a word in English, but the literal translation from German makes for an awesome word) is one of the most symbolic political gestures of post-war pre-unification Germany.
Fun historical trivia: Brandt (as West-Berlin’s mayor) is standing next to JFK during his Ich bin ein Berliner speech (in the video he’s on the very right, with his hand in his jacket’s pocket)
While Adenauer was more concerned about rapproaching with other Western powers, Brandt searched to become nearer from the Eastern Block.
Several question separated the FDR from Eastern Europe: first, the Hallstein Doctrine, based on the fact the FDR was the sole legitimate German government, made any diplomatic relationship a basis for diplomatic rupture. Second and more specifically, on 1945, one fourth of pre-war Germany was rattached to Poland (with a slice to the USSR), causing the entire population, or 9 millions, to be expelled. Most of these expelees wanted to return into their homelands, and were a powerful political block.
Willy Brandt started the process of rapproachment to the East, recognising the Oder-Neisse line and starting relationships with the Eastern Block.
It was during the signing of the Treaty of Warsaw, on December 7, 1970, this event took place.
Reactions from the German public:
>On the same day, Brandt signed the Treaty of Warsaw, which acknowledged the Oder–Neisse line as the final German border with Poland. Both actions attracted controversy within Germany, as did Ostpolitik in general, which was supported by only a narrow majority of the people and had opposition within Brandt’s own Social Democratic Party. Its voters had included a significant proportion of expellees from the formerly-German territories in Poland, most of whom left to support the conservative parties.
>According to a Der Spiegel survey of the time, 48% of all West Germans thought the Kniefall was excessive, 41% said it was appropriate and 11% had no opinion. Brandt’s victory in the next elections, in late 1972, was also due to the growing view among voters that Brandt’s Ostpolitik, symbolized by the Kniefall, and his reformist domestic policies were helping to boost Germany’s international reputation and so should be supported. His party won its best federal election result ever.