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Maggie’s doubts about reunification

The British Prime Minister called a meeting to discuss the threat posed by a bigger Germany

In all this euphoria about Wall-Fall, democracy and people power it is easy to forget that British PM Margaret Thatcher was actually dead against German Reunification. In fact back in 1990, just after the Wall came down, she called a summit at Chequers to discuss the German character and to try to assess whether a more powerful Germany was a threat to Britain.

Invited to the meeting were right wing historian Norman Stone, journalist Timothy Garton-Ash, Hugh Trevor-Roper (specialist in Nazi history) along with the two best-known American historians of Germany, Fritz Stern, German-Jewish by origin, and Gordon Craig, who was Canadian-Scottish

The group had lunch, and then with Douglas Hurd, foreign minister, in attendance, and civil servant Sir Charles Powell taking notes, they discussed the German national character, and whether if Germany turned into a great central European state again through unification, would she not again become authoritarian and try to take over everyone else?

Writing about the discussion some years later, Norman Stone recalled that Mrs Thatcher’s impression of Germany was based on war, and individual accounts of atrocities. And that she was given to making ‘anti-German noises of an old-fashioned kind’.

His personal response to the overall question was that reunification was ‘the best thing that happened in his lifetime’, and that the general consensus of the meeting was one of approval for West Germany. In Stone’s opinion, East Germany was ‘not an accretion of strength, but, rather, 12 enormous Liverpools, handed over to the West Germans in a tatty cardboard box, with a great red ribbon round it, marked “From Russia with love”. When the question came up whether Germany might dominate central Europe, as in the past, I remember saying this could only be a good thing.’

After the meeting, a memorandum was circulated, based on the original agenda, and was speedily leaked to the press, with headlines about the aggressiveness that was part of the German character, etc. although Stone contests that the document itself ended with ‘sentiments to the effect that co-operation with Germany was in order, and that there was nothing to fear.’

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