Warschauer Kniefall (German for "Warsaw Genuflection") refers to a gesture of humility and penance by social democratic Chancellor of Germany Willy Brandt towards the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The incident took place during visit to a monument to the Nazi-era Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on December 7, 1970, in what was then the communist Peoples Republic of Poland. After laying down a wreath, Brandt, very surprisingly, and to all appearances spontaneously, knelt. He remained silently in that position for a short time, surrounded by a large group of dignitaries and press photographers.
Brandt's action was very controversial and unpopular with many Germans, especially conservatives and liberals but also some social democrats; Brandt was also heavily criticized by the press for being unpatriotic. According to a Der Spiegel survey of the time, 48% of all West Germans thought the "Kniefall" was exaggerated, 41% said it was appropriate and 11% had no opinion.
While at the time, positive reactions may have been limited, his show of humility was a small but vital step in bridging the gaps World War II had left between Germany and Eastern Europe. In historical terms, Brandt gained much renown for this act, and it is thought to be one of the reasons he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971.