A New, New Reich?

A History of West Germany Volume 1: From Shadow to Substance, 1945–1963; Volume 2: Democracy and Its Discontents, 1963–1988

by Dennis L. Bark, by David R. Gress
Basil Blackwell, Vol. 2, 567 pp., $34.95 each volume

The Federal Republic of Germany at Forty

edited by Peter H. Merkl
New York University Press, 505 pp., $20.00 (paper)

Germany, America, Europe: Forty Years of German Foreign Policy

by Wolfram F. Hanrieder
Yale University Press, 509 pp., $29.95

Men and Powers: A Political Retrospective

by Helmut Schmidt, translated by Ruth Hein
Random House

La Nation orpheline: Les Allemagnes en Europe

by Anne-Marie Le Gloannec
Calmann-Lévy, 308 pp., 130.00F

The Germans: Rich, Bothered and Divided the fall)

by David Marsh
Century (a revised edition will be published by St. Martin’s Press in, 364 pp., £16.95

A German Identity, 1770–1990

by Harold James
Routledge, 240 pp., $25.00

At the end of October, an international colloquium of scholars gathered at Harvard University to commemorate the fortieth birthday of the German Federal Republic and found themselves, as they read accounts of the demonstrations in Leipzig and the mounting tide of East Germans fleeing to the West, contemplating the possibility that there might not be a forty-first. The novelist Peter Schneider, the author of Der Mauerspringer (The Wall Jumper), put the prospective dilemma in its starkest terms. “If the GDR comes to the door and says ‘You’ve been saying you loved me for forty years. Here I am! Take me!’ how can anyone forbid the union?” The conferees laughed uneasily and talked of the necessity of giving European unity precedence over that of Germany, but no one was very clear about how that might be managed.

Nor has that question been answered now that the possibility of Mr. Schneider’s script being enacted has become much greater than it was in October. During the past weeks, the newspapers and the air waves have been full of statements by European leaders from Whitehall to Warsaw intimating that they would prefer German reunification to be adjourned to the Greek calends. Mrs. Thatcher, to be sure, has intimated that she might settle for ten or fifteen years, and Mr. Gorbachev has told President François Mitterrand that reunification might be a suitable subject for discussion at an all-European conference meeting sometime next year, but neither betrayed the remotest degree of warmth for the idea.

Even President Bush has abandoned his earlier position that the possibility of reunification should be a source of concern to no one. Although it is apparently now the administration’s position that it would not in principle oppose reunification if it were to come as a result of free elections, in the wake of the Malta summit the President talked of additional conditions, telling his allies in Brussels that

unification should occur in the context of Germany’s continuing commitment to NATO, an increasingly integrated European Community, and with due regard to the legal role and responsibilities of the Allied powers. In the interest of general European stability, moves toward unification must be peaceful, gradual and part of a step-by-step basis [sic]. And lastly, on the question of borders, we should reiterate our support for the Helsinki Final Act.

Leaving aside the question of whether the Soviet Union could be expected to agree with any form of reunification in which the Federal Republic’s present Western connection was made to apply to the new united state, Mr. Bush was noncommittal about how he intended to go about imposing these terms, and observers in Germany were skeptical about the feasibility of any restraints. “With the announcement of free travel [by the East German government],” wrote Josef Joffe, the foreign editor of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “de facto reunification has already been proclaimed…. How much can governments slow this process? Governments can sign treaties, but diplomacy is not equipped to …

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