Brandt Meets Stoph Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The summit between West German chancellor Willy Brandt and East German premier Willi Stoph marked the first meeting of the two Germanys’ leaders after the separate republics were formed in 1949. Although the meeting did not result in immediate changes, it provided a foundation for additional talks and improved policies, which contributed to reunifying German territory almost two decades later.

Summary of Event

After World War II, the four major allies—the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France—divided defeated Germany into zones. Germany;partition During 1949, two German republics, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, commonly called West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany), were established, with the western zones becoming the FRG, the Soviet zone becoming the GDR, and Germany’s capital, Berlin, being split into eastern and western halves. As Cold War tensions intensified, Willy Brandt served as West Berlin’s mayor when GDR officials ordered the Berlin Wall built in August, 1961. Erfurt Summit (1970) Cold War;Germany East Germany West Germany [kw]Brandt Meets Stoph (Mar. 19, 1970) [kw]Stoph, Brandt Meets (Mar. 19, 1970) Erfurt Summit (1970) Cold War;Germany East Germany West Germany [g]Europe;Mar. 19, 1970: Brandt Meets Stoph[10740] [g]Germany;Mar. 19, 1970: Brandt Meets Stoph[10740] [g]East Germany;Mar. 19, 1970: Brandt Meets Stoph[10740] [g]West Germany;Mar. 19, 1970: Brandt Meets Stoph[10740] [c]Cold War;Mar. 19, 1970: Brandt Meets Stoph[10740] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Mar. 19, 1970: Brandt Meets Stoph[10740] [c]Government and politics;Mar. 19, 1970: Brandt Meets Stoph[10740] Brandt, Willy Stoph, Willi Heinemann, Gustav Ulbricht, Walter Mielke, Erich

In October, 1969, Brandt became the first Social Democratic chancellor of West Germany. He spoke to the Bundestag (the FRG’s parliament) in Bonn on October 28, describing his Östpolitik program to seek amicable relations with Eastern European countries. Since 1950, FRG leaders had embraced the Hallstein Doctrine, Hallstein Doctrine which claimed that the FRG government acted for all Germans and denying those countries (other than the Soviet Union) pursuing diplomacy with the GDR as a separate state any similar political relationship with the FRG. Brandt rejected continuing that doctrine and emphasized détente through Östpolitik. Östpolitik Interested in discussing common German concerns, he expressed willingness to establish relations with the GDR as a German state. Brandt realized that immediate reunification Germany;reunification efforts was not a plausible goal but aspired to initiate communication.

As a result, Walter Ulbricht, the GDR’s Socialist Unity Party Socialist Unity Party, German (SED) leader, submitted a nonnegotiable list of requests to FRG president Gustav Heinemann, expecting him to meet those requests unconditionally. Heinemann gave Brandt that document. Brandt responded on January 22, 1970, to GDR premier Willi Stoph, saying the German leaders should examine mutual concerns together. Stoph, whose GDR government rank was closer to Brandt’s status than Ulbricht’s, followed his superior Ulbricht’s instructions. By February 11, Brandt had received a letter from Stoph criticizing him for not addressing the GDR’s specific demands and asking him to travel to East Berlin eight days later.

Brandt disliked being pressured by the GDR leaders but hoped access to them would enable discussion of problems that had resulted by dividing Germany. He stated the it was not possible to meet Stoph’s schedule, recommending that representatives of each Germany begin preparations for a later meeting. Because transportation from Bonn to East Berlin posed logistical and political concerns, Brandt wrote Stoph on March 8, suggesting that they meet elsewhere. By March 11, the SED Politburo had selected Erfurt for the summit. Erich Mielke, the director of the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit—the secret police agency better known as the Stasi Stasi —prepared Erfurt and its 200,000 residents for the meeting. Concerned that Erfurt’s appearance should reinforce the GDR’s ideological strengths, Mielke’s staff deliberately selected hotel rooms at Erfurter Hof, fixed roads, painted buildings, and stocked stores with fresh fruit.

On March 18, Brandt announced on West German television that he was optimistic but realistic regarding the meeting and would try to establish relations for a better future. In Bonn, Brandt and his delegation boarded a train that reached a siding at Gerstungen after midnight. The next morning, he switched to an East German train. At the border, GDR personnel welcomed Brandt. Despite police efforts to restrain people, Brandt saw East Germans acknowledge his passage with friendly gestures along the forty-mile route to Erfurt.

Stasi guards ordered children to remain at school and laborers to stay at their workplaces, and they limited East Germans’ visits to Erfurt on March 19. Several thousand curious East Germans, however—eager to observe Brandt—crowded near the train station and hotel. Stasi guards erected barricades. At about 9:30 a.m., Brandt arrived in Erfurt. Stoph shook Brandt’s hand inside the station. Outside, Stasi police placed a tram in front of Erfurt citizens to impede them from seeing the West Germans when they walked through a plaza to the hotel. Police moved a barricade to maneuver the streetcar for more effective blockage. Seeing Brandt, people pushed into the gap, overwhelming security guards. Mielke later blamed reporters for initiating the surge toward Brandt.

People chanted Brandt’s full name and demanded that he appear at his third-floor suite’s window overlooking the plaza. Stasi personnel called Stoph’s name, attempting to be louder than the demonstrators, but were ineffective because they were focused on crowd control. At 9:45 a.m., Brandt stood where the crowd could see him and gestured for silence before moving out of sight. East German television delayed showing Brandt’s arrival for forty-five minutes and omitted scenes showing the demonstrators.

Meeting with Brandt in the hotel at 10:00 a.m., Stoph emphasized he wanted the FRG to recognize the GDR legally as an equal, accusing the FRG of behaving aggressively toward East Germany since the beginning of the Cold War. Stoph demanded that neither Germany initiate military attacks or deploy weapons with biological, chemical, or nuclear components. He also requested the FRG reimburse the GDR monetarily for perceived losses from East German emigration to the west. Stoph stated that he wanted the United Nations to permit the GDR and FRG to become U.N. members concurrently. Brandt responded that the FRG would not recognize the GDR as a foreign country. He stressed that the FRG would consider a treaty only after satisfactory discussions and improvements in the two nations’ relations. Brandt insisted that he would not tolerate threats to West Berlin’s economy and security. After two hours, the delegations broke for lunch before Brandt and Stoph met alone for another two hours.

At 4:00 p.m., Brandt and Otto Winzer, the GDR foreign minister, went to the Buchenwald concentration camp near Erfurt. Bands played both German national anthems, and Brandt presented a wreath to memorialize victims. Stoph and Ulbricht conversed prior to Stoph’s talking again with Brandt that night. Neither German leader accepted the other’s major demands. Brandt stated that he wanted commissions to continue developing possible solutions for problems. Before Brandt departed on a train by 11:00 p.m., Stoph affirmed that he would continue talks with Brandt at another site.

In Bonn on March 20, Brandt described the meeting to the Bundestag, stating that Erfurt was a start for German discussions. Unsure what might be achieved later, Brandt pledged that he would consider future summits with GDR leaders, realizing that small agreements might progress eventually to resolution of complex issues. After the Erfurt talks, Stoph, in a televised broadcast, asserted that he would have approved a treaty with West Germany, but Brandt had been reluctant. Stoph expressed his gratitude for Erfurt residents’ loyalty to him. U.S. news magazines printed coverage of the Brandt-Stoph meeting, including photographs of demonstrators distributed by wire services.


The Erfurt Summit initiated the personal interaction of rival German leaders to discuss German issues after Germany had been divided following World War II. Not surprisingly, the meeting failed to result in the diplomatic recognition East Germany desired, although it did enhance Brandt’s political prestige globally. He received the 1971 Nobel Peace Prize Nobel Peace Prize;Willy Brandt[Brandt] because of his Östpolitik efforts.

The Erfurt demonstrations, revealing East Germans’ interest in and public support for Brandt, startled GDR and Soviet leaders, who criticized security lapses. The SED’s Central Committee stated on March 25, 1970, that SED representatives had insufficiently perceived hazards associated with East Germans being in proximity to the western leader. Ulbricht’s role at Erfurt contributed to his losing his position the following year. Local party officials explained that they had followed orders to create public images for journalists instead of implementing effective security measures. Mielke intensified security standards for future interactions between westerners and East Germans. Ironically, as Brandt’s Östpolitik and the 1971 Berlin Accord Berlin Accord (1971) enabled more westerners to travel within Berlin, expanded Stasi security forces reinforced borders and regulations to control East Germans.

Despite FRG diplomatic achievements with other Eastern European countries after Erfurt, their efforts related to the two Germanys were hindered when Brandt and Stoph met at Kassel, West Germany, in May of 1970 because Soviet leaders discouraged GDR representatives from cooperating with FRG leaders. Resolution of issues discussed at Erfurt slowly occurred, however. By November 9, 1989, the border between the two Germanys was opened, and the Germanys were reunited eleven months later. Erfurt Summit (1970) Cold War;Germany East Germany West Germany

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Brandt, Willy. People and Politics: The Years 1960-1975. Translated by J. Maxwell Brownjohn. Boston: Little, Brown, 1978. Brandt describes his perceptions of Stoph and East German personnel and citizens at Erfurt.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Federal Republic of Germany. Press and Information Office. Erfurt, March 19, 1970: A Documentation. Bonn: Bundesdruckerei, 1970. Correspondence, reports, and speeches reveal participants’ expectations, demands, and opinions regarding the Erfurt meeting.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gray, William Glenn. Germany’s Cold War: The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949-1969. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. Addresses various countries’ diplomatic attitudes toward the two Germanys, which influenced both the division and Brandt’s efforts to encourage goodwill instead of competition at Erfurt.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sarotte, Mary E. Dealing with the Devil: East Germany, Détente, and Ostpolitik, 1969-1973. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Examines GDR perspectives, international influences, and historical context for the Erfurt meeting and related diplomacy, using such primary resources as secret police and Communist Party archives.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. “A Small Town in (East) Germany: The Erfurt Meeting of 1970 and the Dynamics of Cold War Détente.” Diplomatic History 25, no. 1 (Winter, 2001): 85-104. Describes global responses to the German leaders’ meeting and poses unanswered questions because relevant sources remain restricted. Provides official and surveillance photographs depicting Brandt, Stoph, and Erfurters.

East Germans Flee to West to Escape Communist Regime

Germany Splits into Two Republics

Communists Raise the Berlin Wall

Categories: History