BERLIN -- Political leaders from around the world joined Germans in bidding farewell yesterday to Willy Brandt, eulogizing the former West German chancellor as a pragmatic idealist whose visionary policies helped change the face of Europe.
"The life of a great man has ended," said President Richard von Weizsaecker in a speech before Mr. Brandt's flag-draped coffin. "He embodied an era. He reconciled Germans with themselves. He changed Germans' relationship to the world, and the world's relationship to Germany. By doing so, he shaped the history of our century."
Mr. Brandt died Oct. 8 at the age of 78 after a long struggle with cancer. The flood of tributes since then suggests that no German in any field was as widely admired or beloved.
More than 15,000 people filed past Mr. Brandt's coffin on Friday to pay their final respects. They waited in a line that at times stretched for nearly a mile. Many carried flowers, and more than a few wept openly.
A crowd also gathered yesterday in front of the historic Reichstag, the once and future seat of the German Parliament, where world leaders assembled for a memorial service that was televised nationally.
Among foreign leaders attending yesterday's service were President Francois Mitterrand of France, Prince Charles, Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez of Spain, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel, Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis of Greece, Chancellor Franz Vranitzky of Austria, Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali of the United Nations and Prime Minister Gro Brundtland of Norway, where Mr. Brandt fled after the rise of Hitler and remained until the Nazi conquest there, when he escaped to Sweden.
The U.S. delegation was lead by Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., and included Vernon A. Walters, the former ambassador to Germany.
Two of the mourners were able to attend only because their governments gave them special permission. Russian authorities issued Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the former Soviet president who is under an official travel ban, a visa valid only for a single round trip to Germany. The Venezuelan Parliament allowed President Carlos Andres Perez to come, although it has refused to let him travel since a failed coup nine months ago.
It was during Mr. Brandt's term as mayor of West Berlin that East Germany's Communist leaders ordered the construction of the Berlin Wall. The wall further isolated West Berlin, and Mr. Brandt gained international recognition for his resolve in confronting a challenge that some feared would lead either to capitulation or war.
Later Mr. Brandt served as West Germany's foreign minister and, from 1969 to 1974, as chancellor.
He began peace talks with the Communist countries of Eastern Europe and negotiated non-aggression treaties with the Soviet Union, Poland and East Germany, a campaign that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.