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Martin Schulz attends funeral in Bonn for Brandt ally, Horst Ehmke

The funeral has been held for Horst Ehmke, an advocate of the late German chancellor Willy Brandt's "Ostpolitik" peace overtures to the ex-Soviet bloc during the Cold War. Ehmke died in Bonn aged 90.

Leading members of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) attended Saturday's funeral in Bonn for Ehmke, a former German justice minister, who died at the age of 90.

"Without him, Willy Brandt would not have become chancellor," the SPD's current general secretary Katarina Barley wrote last Monday when news of Ehmke's death on Sunday became public. Ehmke had been Brandt's "specialist for everything" as head of his chancellery between 1969 and 1972.

Funeral guests in Bonn Saturday included Labor Minister Andrea Nahles and Martin Schutz, the SPD designated leader and presumed challenger to Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany's federal election next September.

Deutschland Trauerfeier für Horst Ehmke | Martin Schulz (picture alliance/dpa/H. Kaiser)

A condolence book tribute from Martin Schulz, Merkel's challenger

A long political career

Ehmke, like Brandt, stepped aside in 1974 over the Guillaume spying affair centered on a close Brandt adviser who was exposed as an East German spy.

From 1977, Ehmke served as foreign affairs spokesman for the SPD's parliamentary faction until the SPD under Helmut Schmidt was defeated in 1982 by conservatives led by Helmut Kohl - predecessor to current Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Ostpolitik" or the policy of reconciliation, especially with former East Germany, led in 1971 to Brandt being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize - after falling to his knees in Warsaw in atonement for past Nazi German atrocities.

Brandt passed away in 1992.

From paratrooper to law professor and novelist

Born in Danzig - in current-day Poland - in 1927, Ehmke became a paratrooper and ended up wounded aged 18 in Soviet captivity at the end of World War Two.

Post-war, he studied constitutional law and politics in Germany and at Princeton in the United States. He worked as a research associate at Berkeley, California, before becoming law professor at Freiburg in southern Germany. 

After his role as chancellery chief in Brandt's first cabinet, Ehnke held the ministerial portfolios for research and postal services.

He ended his Bundestag parliamentary career in 1994 and went on to write numerous thriller novels set in political circles.

ipj/jm (dpa, AFP)

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