Milestones: A Unified Germany

A weekly round-up of news and happenings in German-American relations. Business and Economics German taxman goes after foreign banks (DW) Germany’s Merkel calls for push on EU-US trade deal (WP) Germany’s economy minister woos Tehran on trade visit (DW) German businesses consider alternative labor models (DW) Concern Over Deutsche Bank’s Health Shakes Markets (NYT) Angela …Read More

In the months and weeks before the Berlin Wall fell twenty-seven years ago, there were moments of fear and anxiety in the streets of East German cities—and there were moments of courage and hope. Even without knowing how close to the dream of German unification they really were, the triumph of solidarity among millions of …Read More

Former German ambassador to the United States and Head of Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger sums up the legacy of the German unification which brought peace and security to the European neighbourhood and urges that Germany needs to work towards strengthening the European Union in the future.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of German Unity, Dr. William Gray, the winner of this year’s DAAD Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in German and European Studies in the field of Politics and International Relations, shares his assessment of the evolution of Germany’s leadership in Europe and the maturing of German-U.S. relations in global affairs.

In Washington, DC, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of German unity, Theo Waigel, former German Federal Minister of Finance, sits down with AICGS President Dr. Jackson Janes for a conversation on Germany’s new leadership role in Europe and its accomplishments, as well as its challenges, including the euro crisis, the refugee crisis, and Russian aggression, …Read More

Marking the 25th anniversary of German unity, Ambassador John Emerson joins AICGS President Dr. Jackson Janes to discuss a unified Germany’s new role in Europe and the world. The ambassador highlights Germany’s increasing willingness to lead in international affairs and stresses the need for the post-unity generation in Germany and the U.S. to strengthen German-U.S. …Read More

Eight months after the Berlin Wall came down, Deutsche Bank returned to Eastern Germany. Our bank was founded in Berlin in 1870, but Soviet forces had closed all our branches in their zone of occupation following World War II.

Those who remember the heady days of 1989 in Europe will recall a breathtakingly fast pace of change. The chain of events in Eastern Europe seemed like a volcanic eruption of citizens and governments—an eruption that would change the contours of the continent in ways many had hoped for, but few expected in their lifetimes. In retrospect, it was in large measure set in motion by ordinary citizens who changed the course of history. The ripples of those days are still being felt today—a quarter of a century later.

How has German unity impacted the U.S. in terms of its policies and its expectations of Germany as part of that evolving Europe in which it has become so critically important? How have the following years impacted the shaping of U.S. foreign policy, its goals, and its application? What expectations emerged about the global role of the U.S. and our expectations of a unified Germany? The questions above are the ones on which AICGS has asked commentators in this series to reflect upon as the 25th anniversary of the unification of Germany approaches on October 3. They are all significant questions but, given the space constraints, I would like to limit this brief comment to one particular aspect on which I have some modest expertise: the extensive overlap between the process that yielded German unification and the process that yielded expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Taken as a whole, the 25 years following the fall of the Berlin Wall have in the West been an unquestioned success. Two parts of Germany merged hostile systems without drama or dangerous economic strain. To ensure that nationalism will not be reborn, the former Western Europe of the European Communities has expanded into a continent-wide Union of 28 democratic nations, some of which had not known true freedom in their entire histories.

AICGS is pleased to present this collection of essays reflecting on the 25th anniversary of German unification in October 2015. We are grateful to those who have contributed to this collection, all of whom have been affiliated with and supported the Institute in many different capacities. These essays leave us with thoughts not only about …Read More

Germany, united: In 1989, the people of Berlin celebrated the collapse of the Berlin Wall after over 40 years of division. A breathtaking year later, Germany stood on the international stage as a unified country embarking on a new journey to rediscover and redefine its role in international relations.

It seems so normal now. A unified Germany, as one of many; admittedly, the primus inter pares. The divided history is so distant, so last century. Its reunification is, perhaps, the world’s biggest geopolitical miracle of the past half century. When we speak about the euro, NATO, energy, politics, sports, climate matters, whatever, we speak about Germany. The impression is that this is the way it has always been. One Germany. Firmly embedded in NATO and the EU and the West. Never in doubt.

AICGS is pleased to present this collection of essays reflecting on the 25th anniversary of German unification in October 2015. We are grateful to those who have contributed to this collection, all of whom have been affiliated with and supported the Institute in many different capacities. These essays leave us with thoughts not only about …Read More

When German reunification happened in 1990, this fortunate turn of events corresponded strongly with the way the United States viewed the world. The right side had won, history had taken a good turn, and freedom had prevailed after a long standoff with the forces of oppression.

Twenty-five years ago, in October 1990, Germany achieved its unification. The Berlin Wall had been accidentally opened only the prior November. Events moved so quickly that they seemed pre-ordained. But were they? What lessons might we learn?

When Germany’s leaders gather on October 3 for the 25th anniversary of German unification, they will celebrate the progress they have made in integrating the eastern and western parts of the country and will likely also speak of the work still to be done in the ongoing process of unification. If last year’s festivities surrounding the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall are any indication, they will also praise the courageous East Germans for their Peaceful Revolution of 1989-90 and draw attention to the vast changes people in the east have experienced in transitioning into a very different system in the Federal Republic of Germany.

When the reunification of Germany became a reality in 1990, it was also time for the forecasters to take center stage. How long would it take until the East German economy had shaken off the consequences of 40 years of communism? And how long would it take until living standards in eastern Germany matched those in western Germany? Views on such issues differed greatly. The optimists’ camp was led by the German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, who held out the imminent prospect of “blossoming landscapes” in economic terms for the five new federal states. The “Aufbau Ost” development program was expected to last around half a decade. It was not only politicians, but also some economists who believed that it might be possible to catch up that fast.

Reunification was not only a seminal event for Germany. While inspiring and giving hope to people across Europe and around the world, it closed a chapter of history that began with the rise of national socialism and World War II. Today, nations across Central and Eastern Europe stand tall as proud democracies. The vision of a “Europe, whole, free, and at peace” may not yet have been fully realized; but the “partnership in leadership” with a reunited Germany that President George H.W. Bush foresaw is indeed very real.

Twenty-five years on, it is hard for many to remember that nothing about German unification was preordained. Leaders at the time seized an extraordinary moment and created new realities on the ground. The twenty-fifth anniversary of Germany’s unification gives us the chance to remember and celebrate the remarkable outcome. Those reflections should also inspire us to look for opportunities today to make our world better.

On May 31, 1989, a determined U.S. President George H. W. Bush strode to a podium in Mainz, West Germany to explain his vision of what Europe could be like if the Cold War ever ended. “The passion for freedom cannot be denied forever,” President Bush told West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and others who gathered for his speech. “The world has waited long enough. The time is right. Let Europe be whole and free.”

Looking back after twenty-five years to those extraordinary events leading to German unification and the establishment of democratic regimes in Eastern Europe, I am often reminded of the American icon Yogi Berra’s remark that predictions are difficult, particularly about the future. So many were wrong on German unity including the mighty and influential (and also …Read More

When history was about to turn the corner at the end of the 1980s and German unification shot to the top of the international agenda, not everybody was cheering. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was one of the boo-birds. The prime minister was no fan of Germany in the first place and she distrusted Germany’s …Read More

This is a story about the secret of freedom—courage.  Germans in Leipzig courageously faced down a regime that had killed fellow citizens, whose only crime was to seek freedom and escape over the Berlin Wall. East German leader Erich Honecker predicted in January 1989 that the Berlin Wall would last 100 years. Would it? In …Read More

There were several milestones in October that reminded Germans and non-Germans again how much the past twenty-five years have changed the Federal Republic of Germany. While October 3 is the formal anniversary of Germany’s unification, now twenty-four years later, Germans placed a particular focus this year on the demonstrations in Leipzig on 9 October 1989, …Read More

In the fall of 1989, I studied at the Karl-Marx-University in Leipzig. As a student of theology, I was able to participate in the demonstrations on the street as well as in other activities, like prayers with my fellow students. Students of other faculties would have been ex-matriculated had they been seen demonstrating, but theologians …Read More

Carl Bildt, until recently Sweden’s foreign minister, told Thomas Friedman of the New York Times in 2003: “For a generation Americans and Europeans shared the same date: 1945. A whole trans-Atlantic alliance flowed from that postwar shared commitment, free markets and the necessity of deterring the Soviet Union. America saw the strength of Europe as …Read More

Contrary to popular lore, the Berlin Wall did not fall on November 9, 1989. Nor did it fall in Berlin. It fell on October 9 some 120 miles away, in Leipzig. First, civil courage—a rare quality in German history—had to dissolve the four-decade-old mental wall of East German fear. Only thereafter could the cement wall …Read More

This week Germany again marks its anniversary of formal unification on October 3. Next month, on November 9, we will remember how the division of Germany ended, seeing dramatic pictures of jubilant people sitting atop the Berlin Wall twenty-five years ago. A quarter century has passed by in the blink of an historical eye. Germans …Read More

Time flies.  I am struck by how recent the events of the twentieth anniversary of the Mauerfall feel.  A rainy, but magical, memory. At first blush, 2009 seems a more innocent, more optimistic time than the more dangerous and uncertain environment of 2014.  While the various conflicts in the broader Middle East contribute to our …Read More

There were many expectations when the Wall came down. Not least among them that Holocaust survivors living in Eastern Europe would finally receive payments from Germany for their suffering. But a decade would pass before that happened. Germany was preoccupied with unification, and it was nervous about facing claims from newly independent Eastern European states …Read More

Like December 7, 1941, November 22, 1963, and September 11, 2001, November 9, 1989, is one of those dates remembered in freeze frame.  But it’s the rare exception that most of us are also likely to remember in Wordsworth mode.  Bliss was it in that night to be alive, and to be in Berlin was …Read More

Tom Block Berlin Wall

Visitors to AICGS may be familiar with Tom Block’s art installation, “Broken Berlin Wall.”  The artwork will continue to be on display for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9.   The Berlin Wall (1961-1989) was emblematic of impassable frontiers.  In the literal sense, if marked the chasm between …Read More