Uneasy Allies: British-German Relations and European Integration since 1945

By Klaus Larres; Elizabeth Meehan | Go to book overview

4
Britain and German Unification, 1989/90

LOTHAR KETTENACKER

The final verdict on Britain’s stance towards German unification will have to wait at least another twenty years until the release of HM official documents. However, this does not mean that until then we are reduced to making more or less intelligent guesses. For once the diplomatic process and the decisive position taken by the American Bush administration have been studied in detail by two aides of the president’s national security advisers.1 Their study will be unsurpassed for some time to come, not least because they draw on a vast array and variety of official documents, including Russian records. It is most telling that the only superpower left should also have been the first to direct our understanding of the momentous historical events of 1989/90. In addition, a great number of the German Chancellery’s documents pertaining to unification have already been published in one massive volume which constitutes an important source.2 It was, after all, the Chancellery, not the German Foreign Office, that was in charge of German–German affairs. One name which crops up again and again as the author of important minutes and memoranda is Horst Teltschik, Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s trusted civil servant and witness to most of his confidential talks. There is general agreement amongst historians that his diaries are the most candid and reliable source of information about the day-to-day business.3 He was behind all moves to accelerate the process of unification which so worried the British and German Foreign Ministries. Moreover, the memoirs of at least three of the major actors have now been published, those of Margaret

1 See P. Zelikow and C. Rice, Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (Cambridge, Mass., 1995). See also H. Bortfeldt, ‘Die Vereinigten Staaten und die deutsche Einheit’, in K. Larres and T. Oppelland (eds.), Deutschland und die USA im 20. Jahrhundert. Geschichte der politischen Beziehungen (Darmstadt, 1997), 256–73. The best German account by a participant is R. Kiessler and F. Elbe, Ein runder Tisch mit scharfen Ecken. Der diplomatische Weg zur Wiedervereinigung (Baden-Baden, 1986). Elbe was Genscher’s chef de cabinet between 1987 and 1992.

2 H. J. Küsters and D. Hofmann (eds.), Deutsche Einheit. Sonderedition aus den Akten des Bundeskanzleramtes 1989/90 (Munich, 1998).

3 H. Teltschik, 329 Tage. Innenansichten der Einigung (Berlin, 1991). For an assessment: A. Röder, ‘Staatskunst statt Kriegshandwerk. Probleme der deutschen Vereinigung von 1990 in internationaler Perspektive’, Historisches Jahrbuch 118 (1998), 227–9.

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