Bert Trautmann

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The Independent Online

Further to Ivan Ponting's obituary of Bert Trautmann (20 July), it was late at night during one of those Anglo-German conferences at Königswinter on the Rhine at which German and British politicians and journalists held discussions and mingled with each other, writes Tam Dalyell. The wonderfully energetic organiser, Frau Lila Miltschak, asked a group of us which individual had made the greatest single contribution to Anglo-German reconciliation after the Second World War. Some said Willy Brandt. Others opted for Edward Heath. Others again, Helmut Schmidt, Roy Jenkins, Konrad Adenauer, Harold Macmillan and Noel Annan.

Unanticipated, my former headmaster, and head of education in the Allied Central Commission 1946-48, Sir Robert Birley – a Königswinter regular – quietly observed, "In my opinion, the greatest single contributor in Britain was none of these political leaders; it was Bert Trautmann." There was spontaneous agreement.