Willy Brandt’s wife Rut buried in Germany
11 August 2006
BERLIN – Rut Brandt, who was married to former German Chancellor Willy Brandt for 32 years, was buried in Berlin on Friday at a ceremony attended by family and friends from political life.
Among the guests were German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit and Kurt Beck, head of Brandt’s co-governing Social Democratic Party (SPD).
In his homily, theologian Friedrich Schorlemer praised Norwegian-born Rut as “a self-assured and warm person who enjoyed life” until her death aged 86 on July 28.
Born Rut Hansen in Hamar, in 1920, she grew up in poverty, leaving school at 15 to take up a series of menial jobs before becoming active in politics and joining a Socialist youth group.
During World War II she became involved in resistance to the Nazi occupation, fleeing in l942 to Sweden where she met Brandt, who had sought refuge there from Nazi rule in Germany.
The couple married in 1948 – the second marriage for both of them.
Rut played an important role during Brandt’s early political career in post-war Germany through his time as mayor of West Berlin (1957-1966), then West German foreign minister and vice chancellor (1966-1969) and later on as chancellor from 1969 to 1974.
Elegant and good-looking, she was a popular and successful politician’s wife, sometimes dubbed the Social Democrats’ Jackie Kennedy.
She acted as hostess to President John F. Kennedy on June 26, 1963, when he stood at the Berlin Wall and spoke out for the city’s freedom by declaring, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
Despite a cooling in their relationship, she stood by her husband when he was forced to resign in 1974 after it was discovered that Guenter Guillaume, one of his close aides, was a top East German spy.
Brandt eventually left her in l979 for Brigitte Seebacher, one of his assistants, and the couple was divorced a year later. Brandt himself died in 1992.
After the divorce Rut, who had three sons with Brandt, maintained both an independent public role and her popularity as one of Germany’s most effective first ladies.
She also wrote two books and lived in Norway and Denmark before returning to Berlin with Danish journalist Niels Norlund whom she lived with for 22 years with until he died in 2004.
Rut Brandt spent the final years of her life in a retirement home. She was buried in the same cemetery where Willy Brandt is laid to rest.
“Now they share the earth of Berlin together, the place of happy, satisfying years,” Schorlemer said.
Subject: German news