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German Unification Symposium/Hertie Lecture 2009 Print E-mail
The Diplomatic Path to German Unity: A Tribute to American Friends

Friday, October 2, 2009 - 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Lecture at the GHI - Directions
Speaker: Frank Elbe

Event Report

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Speaker Ambassador Frank Elbe
This year's German Unification Symposium / Hertie Lecture featured former Ambassador Frank Elbe. Over his thirty-year career, Elbe served as the German ambassador to India, Japan, Poland, and Switzerland. From 1987 to 1992, he was Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher's chief of staff, where he was a key negotiator for the Two Plus Four Agreement on German Unification. Elbe focused on this experience in his remarks, highlighting the issues and personalities that shaped the negotiations.

Elbe began by expressly thanking the United States, and particularly the first Bush administration, for the decisive role it played as West Germany's most crucial ally during this transformative period. He then presented the historical postwar agreements, as well as the shift in Soviet policy toward perestroika, which provided the backdrop to the idea of German unification, paving the way for the Two Plus Four negotiations that commenced shortly after the "eruptive event," the fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9, 1989. These agreements showed that the possibility of unification had always been present but that the stability of Europe was of primary concern.

At the end of 1989, two primary concerns determined West German foreign policy: What diplomatic format would be suitable for negotiating German unification, and how could membership of a united Germany in NATO be made acceptable to the Soviets? The United States suggested a "mechanism of six" - United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and the two German states -- for the negotiations, and Genscher transformed this into "Two Plus Four" to emphasize the role of West and East Germany. On the question of NATO, it was important to specify that there would be no extension of NATO territory further to the east. In the end, had Gorbachev not won support back home, it would have been impossible for him to give the green light to let Germans "decide on their alliances for themselves."

The well-attended lecture concluded with a lively question-and-answer session. The full lecture will be published in the Spring 2010 issue of the Bulletin of the GHI.

Patricia Casey Sutcliffe



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Speaker Ambassador Frank Elbe

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Speaker Ambassador Frank Elbe

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GHI Director Hartmut Berghoff during Q & A

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from left: Hartmut Berghoff (GHI), Ambassador Frank Elbe, Christa Brown (GHI)

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from left: Uwe Spiekermann (GHI), Mostapha Bouklloua (Managing Director, START Foundation, Frankfurt), Antje Schulz (head of the eduction program, START Foundation, Frankfurt)

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Scholarship Recipients of the START Foundation, Frankfurt. From left: Duc Do Minh, Handan Yasak, Antje Schulz (representing the START Foundation), Ehsan Ahmadkhani, Dragana Stojkovic, Ekaterina Feldmann





The Diplomatic Path to German Unity: A Tribute to American Friends  -  German Unification Symposium/Hertie Lecture

Friday, October 2, 2009 - 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Lecture at the GHI - Directions
Speaker: Frank Elbe

This year's German Unification Symposium/Hertie Lecture will feature former ambassador Frank Elbe. Over his thirty-year career, Frank Elbe served as the German ambassador to India, Japan, Poland, and Switzerland. From 1987 to 1992, he was Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher’s chief of staff, where he was a key negotiator for the Two Plus Four Agreement on German Unification. 

The Hertie Lecture and German Unification Symposium is generously supported by the Hertie Foundation.


Please RSVP (acceptances only) by Tel. 202.387.3355, Fax 202.387.6437, or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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