Primary Source

Verbal Message from Mikhail Gorbachev to Helmut Kohl

Annotation

With the opening of the border between East and West Germany on November 9, 1989, jubilant crowds took to the streets in Berlin to celebrate this historic event. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was traveling in Poland when word reached him about the events in East Germany and he quickly rearranged his schedule so that he could make a public appearance the following day, on November 10. During the heady hours immediately following the news about the open borders, several public figures throughout West Germany had made public reference to the idea of a reunified German state, which was a cause for great concern for Mikhail Gorbachev, who feared that such rhetoric would only further destabilize the situation in East Germany. Thus, Gorbachev made a personal plea to Kohl during a brief telephone conversation asking that he refrain from any public comment about the idea that there were no longer two German states.

Mikhail Gorbachev, "Verbal Message from Mikhail Gorbachev to Helmut Kohl," Making the History of 1989, Item #451

Text

Verbal Message from Mikhail Gorbachev to Helmut Kohl

10 November 1989

As you, of course, know, the GDR leadership made the decision to allow the
citizens of East Germany unrestricted travel to West Berlin and the FRG. It is
understandable, that this decision was not an easy one for the new leadership of the GDR.
At the same time, the decision underlines the fact that deep and fundamental changes are
taking place in East Germany. The leadership is acting in a concerted and dynamic
manner in the interests of its people, and they are opening a dialog with various groups
and levels of society.

Statements from the FRG made against this political and psychological
background, designed to stimulate a denial of the existence of two German states and
encourage emotional reactions, can have no other goal than destabilizing the situation in
the GDR and subverting the ongoing processes of democratization and the renewal of all
areas of society.

We have received notice that a meeting will take place today in West Berlin, in
which official representatives of the FRG and West Berlin will participate. A meeting is
planned in the capital of the GDR at the same time.

With the current situation of de facto open borders and huge numbers of people
moving in both directions, a chaotic situation could easily develop that might have
unforeseen consequences.

In light of the time pressure and the seriousness of the situation, I thought it
necessary to ask you, in the spirit of openness and realism, to take the extremely pressing
steps necessary to prevent a complication and destabilization of the situation.

[Source: SAPMO–BA, DY 30/IV 2/2.039/319. Translated for CWIHP by Howard Sargeant.]

Credits

Mikhail Gorbachev, "Verbal Message from Mikhail Gorbachev to Helmut Kohl," 10 November 1989, trans. Howard Sargeant, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

How to Cite This Source
Verbal Message from Mikhail Gorbachev to Helmut Kohl in World History Commons,