Primary Sources

Chancellor Kohl and President Bush Discuss Influx of East Germans and Kohl's Meeting with Michael Gorbachev


One of the most significant problems for West Germany after the opening of the intra-German border was the massive influx of immigrants from East Germany. Under the West German Basic Law, East Germans who fled to the West could instantly claim West German citizenship. Hundreds of thousands of East Germans came to the West each month in the search for better employment opportunities. They also came out of fear that the border might suddenly close again unless formal guarantees were put in place. In this telephone conversation between West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and U.S. President George H. W. Bush, the two discuss some of these economic issues as well as the German-American position regarding the status of NATO membership for a unified Germany. Both leaders were convinced that they must hold firm to Germany's membership in NATO and Kohl was hopeful that Gorbachev and the USSR would ultimately agree to this condition.


George H. W. Bush, conversation with Helmut Kohl, February 13 1990, Bush Presidential Library, Public Papers, Bush Library (accessed April 2, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt


SUBJECT : Telephone Call from Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany

The President
Helmut Kohl, Chancellor
Robert Hutchings, NSC Staff (Notetaker)
Gisela Marcuse (Intepreter)

DATE, TIME AND PLACE: February 13, 1990, 1:49 - 2:00 p.m. EST, The Oval Office

Chancellor Kohl initiated the call.

The President: Helmut, how are you?

Chancellor Kohl: Fine. Prime Minister Modrow is here today. The situation continues to be dramatic. Between the 1st of January and today, 80,000 have come from the GDR to the Federal Republic. That is why I suggested a monetary union and an economic community. We will have to urge the government that comes in after March 18 to go through with these.

First, thank you for all you did in Moscow. Please convey my best regards to Jim Baker and congratulations for a great job. I do believe the letter you sent to me before I left for Moscow will one day be considered one of the great documents in German-American history. Your support is invaluable.

Let me say a few words about my talks in Moscow. Gorbachev was very relaxed. He has just had a difficult week in the Central Committee, but he was confident that at the Party Congress he would see things through. But the problems he faces are enormous—nationalities, the food supply situation—and I do not see a light at the end of the tunnel yet.

You know the text we published jointly on the German Question. It was highly satisfactory. We will go in that direction now, and in a parallel way on security policy. We also discussed the same points Jim Baker had been discussing; that the two German states should be working together with the Four Powers—the U.S., the UK, France, and the USSR. I was informed by Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who called me from Ottawa an hour ago, that the foreign ministers are discussing the same things. At Camp David, this is one thing we will have to discuss thoroughly: the future of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. I feel we will find a solution, but it will be hard work. I told Gorbachev again that the neutralization of Germany is out of the question for me.

The President: Did he acquiesce or just listen? How did he react?

Chancellor Kohl: My impression is that this is a subject about which they want to negotiate# but that we can win that point in negotiations. The modalities will be important, but I do believe—we can find a solution.

The President: We must find a solution. The Camp David meeting will be very important, and I am delighted you are able to come. When I heard your comments from Moscow and heard that Mr. Gorbachev had removed a longstanding obstacle to unification, I was thinking of you as a friend. It must have been an emotional moment for you. The German people certainly want to be together.

Chancellor Kohl: That is quite true. This is a great moment for us. Today as I had a meeting at the Bundestag and with my Fraktion[parliamentary caucus], I said that without our American friends this would not have been possible.

The President: I will await your visit. We have been supporting your stated position that NATO membership would be appropriate. We won't move away from that, but we do need to talk and see where we need to be more flexible and where we need to be more firm. I think our Camp David meeting will be very important.


How to Cite this Source

Chancellor Helmut Kohl, "Chancellor Kohl and President Bush Discuss Influx of East Germans and Kohl's Meeting with Michael Gorbachev," Making the History of 1989, Item #30, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:26 pm).

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