The Reunification of Deutschland

'Deutschland Über Alles' begins the German national anthem, because that is what they call their country, Deutschland. We call it Germany because the Romans called it Germania after the name of the tribe Caesar defeated in the Teutoburger Wald, the Germani. The French call it Allemange after another tribe, the Allemani. Such is the fate of defeated peoples. First the northern border of the Roman Empire, Deutschland became infinitely divided under the auspices of the Charlemagne's (by the way, in Deutschland, they call him Karl der Gross) Holy Roman Empire. But Charlemagne was Deutsch himself, of yet another tribe, the Franks, and on this side of the Rhine we tend to forget that he called his empire Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation (Holy Roman Empire Deutscher Nation). Later on as Arabia waned and Europe was waxing Deutschland was the stomping ground of war, until a militant country on the Baltic appeared on the scene. Prussia conquered and unified much of Deutschland for the first time in history. But the militancy of that province was it's loss. Prussia was completely destroyed after WWII, the land being ceded to Russia and Poland. The area's Deutsch residents were force to march to what became Östdeutschland. Not all of them made it.

Prussia only a memory, a redivided Deutschland entered the 2nd half of the 20th century garrisoned with foreign troops preparing once again to make Deutschland a battlefield for their war. Neither of the 2 Deutschlands were even sovereign nations, because their conquerors weren't quite on speaking terms and wouldn't come together to sign a peace treaty. Such was the state of the world for 40 years, from 1949-1989.

Oddly enough the story of the reunification of Deutschland begins in the Caucuses during the Soviet Union's war with Afghanistan. Disgraced by the path his country had taken a local party man, Mikhail Gorbachev, vowed to right the course his country was taking. A decade later his Perestroika and Glasnost changed the balance of power in Eastern Europe. People revolted in the Socialist Bloc, but the Red Army didn't come rolling in as expected. Without this military might behind them, communist governments fell like dominos: Hungary, the Solidarity movement in Poland, Czechoslovakia, all met the challenge locally and established democratic governments; Yugoslavia exploded and has not yet been pacified; only in the old Baltic countries did the Red Army fill it's usual role. Part of Stalin's deal with Hitler to divide up Eastern Europe, Mother Russia was not yet ready to grant these countries their independence. Likewise, the question of Östdeutschland was a sticky issue. Millions of Russians had given their lives in the Great Patriotic War against the Fascisti (even more the Stalin himself killed) and this was something harped on much by the Soviet Government, as it was their finest hour. The Östdeutschers wanted Freizeit (Freedom) the same as everyone else, but Gorbachev wanted the Communist party there to handle it themselves. Erich Honecker, however, was not up to the task; or could he even have been? The Stasi would have done the Gestapo proud in their heyday, but economically Östdeutschland was beyond bankrupt. Trying to keep up Östdeutschland's image as a communist country that is successful economically, the Soviets had propped up their economy for years. But Gorbachev was pulling back, so Honecker was left holding the bill.

Enter the Hungarians. As a Warsaw Pact signatory, they were ostensibly still a part of the Socialist Bloc even though they had formed a democratic government. Thus Östdeutschers had travel rights there, like the rest of the East, even though they couldn't travel West. Then Hungary decided in May 1989 to open it's border to Österreich (we call it Austria; yeah they were losers in WWII too), and the floodgates open. Östdeutschers by the thousands flock there to cross the West.

Honecker appealed to the Socialist Bloc to help stop this emigration, and then it gets really messy because of the sheer numbers involved. At one point the Westdeutsch embassy in Hungary had so many asylum seekers that Helmut Kohl, the Westdeutsch Chancellor, appealed to James Baker, the USA's Secretary of State at the time, to help accommodate all the people at the US embassy. With these overwhelming numbers the rest of the Bloc decided to abandon Honecker to deal with his own people. In mid October Egon Krenz replaces the aging Honecker as Östdeutsch communist party leader.

In a meeting of Östdeutschland's communist party leaders on November 9 they make the only decision available to them short of declaring war on their own people (which, without the backing of the Soviet Army, is an uncertain proposition), and decide to loosen border controls somewhat, but not completely. Instructions were to be distributed to borderguards on the 10th and then an announcement made that evening. In one of the greatest screw-ups in bureaucratic history, the party's press secretary Schabowski enunciated the new law during a press conference just before 7pm on the 9th. As Östberliners began massing near the Berlin Wall, the borderguards didn't know how to interpret the new law and decided to err on the side of caution. So when people approached the wall the borderguards didn't fire on them, but let them pass. Soon the wall was coming down as people from both sides danced atop it.

Now the story turns west to Bonn and Kohl as the Östdeutsch government proves it's impotence. Kohl, like many Europeans, was a student of history and believed, unlike many Europeans, in a united Deutschland. He also wanted a sovereign Deutschland, unencumbered by the lack of a peace treaty for a war that ended while he was just a child. George Bush, the then president of the USA, was of a like mind. While he believed that peoples had a right to choose their government, Bush wanted to make sure that a united Deutschland remained in NATO. Of course, the westward expansion of the Soviet Union's sworn enemy was unacceptable to Gorbachev.

The ensuing 11 months of marathon diplomacy are a masterpiece. Gorbachev was forced to fold on every account because of his principles. Amazingly enough, his position at home remained tenable throughout the debacle. It wasn't until two years later that the reactionary forces gained the upper hand in the USSR, and by then it was to late to save that dying giant.

The treaty talks proceed under the title "2 plus 4", the two Deutschlands and the four victors from WWII; Sovereignty and unity would come together in one package; Östdeutschland would be annexed into the Federal Republic of Deutschland; the new Deutschland would remain a member of NATO, but NATO would tone down it's anti-USSR rhetoric a bit; Deutschland makes a sizable loan to the USSR; Mitterand (France) trades support of unification for Kohl's support of European monetary union; Bush pulls Thatcher (Great Britain) in line despite reservations about a sovereign Deutschland; and a thousand other small details. On October 3, 1990 unified Deutschland becomes a reality.

History, it seems, has forgotten that Einstein was born in Deutschland but Hitler wasn't. As Europe proceeds toward unification itself, Deutschland plays a leading role but if still often snubbed because of sour memories. Even though several tens of millions more people in Europe speak Deutsch as their native language than speak French, the latter is still one of the two main languages of the European Union (the other, of course, being English). Perhaps now that the Civil Wars of Europe seem to be over the unity thus gained will erase the hatreds of old.

Return to the top.


Last Modified: 15 July 2002 by Bradley James Wogsland .
Copyright © 2002 Bradley James Wogsland.