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Unification Treaty is Signed Without Reference to Nazi Era

September 4, 1990
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Despite vigorous protests from the Jewish community, leaders of the two German states signed a unification treaty last Friday that makes no reference to the Nazi era.

The treaty, signed in East Berlin by West German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble and East German State Secretary Gunther Krause, forms the legal framework for the unification that will take place Oct. 3.

The document contains nearly 1,000 pages dealing with every conceivable ramification of unification. It includes mentions of politics, economics, sports, what to do with the files of East Germany’s late secret police, the Stasi, and how to deal with the issue of abortion.

The treaty is considered a marvel of unity not just between the two states but among the various political factions. It took countless hours of hair-splitting discussions to satisfy everyone.

But the document contains no mention of the Nazi era.

The Jewish community had pressed West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to include mention of Germany’s Nazi past, and he had assured Jewish leaders in July that the treaty would include words that would emphasize Germany’s moral debt to Nazi victims.

But when the government draft of the treaty was released two weeks ago, it said only that a unified German state would be conscious of the continuity of German history and the resulting special responsibility for human rights and peace.

Jewish leader Heinz Galinski wrote a protest letter to Kohl on the matter and provided copies of the letter to reporters at a news conference last week. Kohl made it known that he would not answer a letter made public before he had read it himself.


In New York, leaders of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith urged last week that “specific language concerning responsibility for the victims of Nazism” be incorporated into the treaty.

But the treaty signed last Friday contained no such language. And although it must still be ratified by the parliaments of both German states, that is considered a foregone conclusion.

In a news released Sunday, the German Jewish community, which numbers some 6,400 and includes many Holocaust survivors, described the Germans’ failure to fulfill its demand as a cause for sorrow and concern.

The community added that the matter made it all the more necessary to step up the battle against tendencies that seek to suppress the Nazi chapter in Germany’s history.

Not all German politicians sought to quiet the matter. The maverick Green party in Bonn, which supported mention of the Nazi era in the treaty, urged the West German parliament to adopt a draft law that would make reparations available to people who had been penalized by military courts during the 12 years of Nazi rule, from 1933 through 1945.

Kohl’s ruling Christian Democrats oppose the Green’s initiative. But some Social Democratic deputies indicated they would support the bill if it were brought to the Bundestag floor.

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