Diplomacy Despite the Wall

Diplomacy Despite the Wall

Willy Brandt’s policy for change titled “New Ostpolitik” in the late 1960s resulted not only in renunciation of force treaties between West Germany and the Soviet bloc but also in a landmark agreement clarifying the special status of Berlin. This diplomacy eased relations between Bonn and East Berlin as well as across the Wall that divided the former German capital, laying some of the groundwork for German unity in 1990.

In 1974, the two Germanys gained diplomatic recognition and U.N. membership. U.S. diplomats emphasized that their new East Berlin embassy was to East Berlin not in it, clarifying Berlin’s special status since the U.S. embassy could not be in the sector held by the occupying Soviets. U.S. diplomatic relations with a rigid East Germany began.

New Ostpolitik

—Willy Brandt

Diplomacy Despite the Wall

Willy Brandt’s policy for change titled “New Ostpolitik” in the late 1960s resulted not only in renunciation of force treaties between West Germany and the Soviet bloc but also in a landmark agreement clarifying the special status of Berlin. This diplomacy eased relations between Bonn and East Berlin as well as across the Wall that divided the former German capital, laying some of the groundwork for German unity in 1990.

In 1974, the two Germanys gained diplomatic recognition and U.N. membership. U.S. diplomats emphasized that their new East Berlin embassy was to East Berlin not in it, clarifying Berlin’s special status since the U.S. embassy could not be in the sector held by the occupying Soviets. U.S. diplomatic relations with a rigid East Germany began.

Diplomacy Despite the Wall

New Ostpolitik
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Willy Brandt

A system of deliberate contacts

A system of deliberate contacts

All diplomats observe and report to their national headquarters, but U.S. diplomats only had limited opportunities to visit East Germany and assess the situation on the ground. A major way to travel there was for U.S. diplomats to visit the Leipzig Trade Fair through special visa arrangements, where they could observe the economic developments of Soviet bloc countries.

Western radio broadcasts (then later, television) became another important method of Allied communication with all parts of Germany. The U.S. was committed to reaching the people of the East; to provide communication with a Western viewpoint unfiltered by communist rhetoric.
The cover of this booklet depicts U.S. President Nixon’s triumphant 1969 visit to West Berlin.

Richard C. Barkley, German Affairs, Washington, D.C.

Oral History

Richard C. Barkley, German Affairs, Washington, D.C.

The cover of this booklet depicts U.S. President Nixon’s triumphant 1969 visit to West Berlin. It also illustrates U.S. diplomat Robert Barkley’s comment in this narrative about how German New Ostpolitik and U.S. détente overlapped. Barkley served in both in Bonn and East Berlin.
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Gift of Hans N. Tuch

Leipzig Trade Fair exhibition hall

Leipzig Trade Fair exhibition hall

Photograph

Leipzig Trade Fair exhibition hall

Crowds gather in the exhibition hall for the electronics branch at the Leipzig Trade Fair. West German industries participated in the 1965 fair with renewed vigor, determined not to lose step with foreign competitors. In the wake of intensified intra-German trade, the Leipzig Trade Fair became an important point of exchange between East and West.
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Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, NY

U.S. Computer exhibit at Leipzig Trade Fair

U.S. Computer exhibit at Leipzig Trade Fair

Photograph

U.S. Computer exhibit at Leipzig Trade Fair

Through an active exhibition program, the U.S. Information Agency circulated many shows in Soviet bloc countries to inform people about American life, economy and culture. As part of the U.S. Embassy East Berlin's public diplomacy, this exhibition on U.S. computers reached thousands of visitors from behind the Iron Curtain.
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David B. Bolen Papers, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University

This bilingual flier announces the U.S. Information Agency's contribution to and participation in the Leipzig Fair.

Brochure, USA Exhibit, Leipzig Spring Fair

Museum Artifact

Brochure, USA Exhibit, Leipzig Spring Fair

This bilingual flier announces the U.S. Information Agency's contribution to and participation in the Leipzig Fair.
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David B. Bolen Papers, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University

Official itinerary of moon landing astronauts goodwill tour through Germany

Jonathan Dean, Political Counselor, Bonn

Oral History

Jonathan Dean, Political Counselor, Bonn

The 1969 moon landing astronauts followed a controlled circuit in their goodwill tour throughout Germany. U.S. diplomats guided their activities, detailed in this blue-covered official itinerary. U.S. diplomat Jonathan Dean reflected on the importance of gaining German support through several different avenues of diplomatic contact.
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Gift of Hans N. Tuch (Photo by Alex Jamison)

Map showing visibility range of West German and Soviet Zone television broadcasts

Map showing visibility range of West German and Soviet Zone television broadcasts

Map

Map showing visibility range of West German and Soviet Zone television broadcasts

Map showing visibility range of West German television broadcasts into the Soviet Zone, and Soviet Zone broadcasts into West Germany.
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Department of State, Bureau of International Information Programs

Willy Brandt and New Ostpolitik

Willy Brandt and New Ostpolitik

Willy Brandt became Chancellor of West Germany in 1969. His party developed the policy of New Ostpolitik, accepting Germany and Europe’s divisions but working to establish relations with Soviet bloc countries for practical ends. He saw West Germany’s interests as: continued alliance with the West, reducing tensions across the Iron Curtain, expanding trade with the East and ultimately, German reunification. In their oral histories, U.S. diplomats referred to the process of New Ostpolitik as Brandt described it—“change through rapprochement” and a “policy of small steps.”
Brandon Grove, Jr., U.S. Liaison Officer, Berlin, 1965-1969

Brandon Grove, Jr., U.S. Liaison Officer, Berlin

Oral History

Brandon Grove, Jr., U.S. Liaison Officer, Berlin

In the late 1960s, Brandon Grove, Jr., then serving as U.S. Liaison in West Berlin, described how he interacted frequently with then Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt. Brandt later became German Chancellor from 1969-1974.
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National Archives and Records Administration

Willy Brandt and Henry Kissinger

Willy Brandt and Henry Kissinger

Photograph

Willy Brandt and Henry Kissinger

U.S. Presidential Advisor Henry Kissinger made a stopover en route to Moscow to talk with German Chancellor Willy Brandt.
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National Archives and Records Administration

East German State and Party leader Erich Honecker offers candy as farewell gift to West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt as Schmidt leaves East Germany en route to West Germany

Honecker and Schmidt

Photograph

Honecker and Schmidt

East German State and Party leader Erich Honecker offers candy as farewell gift to West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt as Schmidt leaves East Germany en route to West Germany in 1981. Beside Schmidt is West German Minister for German Affairs, Egon Franks.
West German Chancellor Willy Brandt accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971

Brandon Grove, Jr., U.S. Liaison Officer, Berlin

Oral History

Brandon Grove, Jr., U.S. Liaison Officer, Berlin

This photo of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 reflected the high esteem that Brandon Grove, Jr., accorded the German leader.
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National Archives and Records Administration

Normalization: Coming to Terms with Two Germanys

Normalization: Coming to Terms with Two Germanys

“Normalization” of German-to-German and West German-to-Soviet bloc relations came about after Brandt’s government recognized Europe’s borders as firm, entered non-aggression treaties and acknowledged the two-state situation in Germany. In 1971, the Western Allies and Soviet Union signed the Quadripartite (Four Power) agreement clarifying the status of Berlin, leading to additional German-to-German agreements on mail and telephone communications; transportation and permission for ordinary West Berliners to visit East Berlin. Quality of life increased in “small steps” for everyone involved.
U.S. Ambassador David Bolen (right) greets East German Chairman of the Council of State Erich Honecker upon Bolen’s presenting his credentials in 1977.

Jonathan Dean, Political Counselor, Bonn

Oral History

Jonathan Dean, Political Counselor, Bonn

U.S. Ambassador David Bolen (right) greets East German Chairman of the Council of State Erich Honecker upon Bolen’s presenting his credentials in 1977. U.S. diplomat Jonathan Dean in Bonn reflected on U.S. reservations about conducting diplomacy in this hard-line communist country.
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David B. Bolen Papers, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University

John Sherman Cooper

Brandon Grove, Jr., Deputy Chief of Mission, East Berlin

Oral History

Brandon Grove, Jr., Deputy Chief of Mission, East Berlin

The first U.S. ambassador to East Germany, John Sherman Cooper, set the tone for American diplomatic relations with East Germany, which U.S. diplomat Brandon Grove, Jr., posted to East Berlin with Cooper, recalled.
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National Archives and Records Administration

From left, French Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann, British Foreign Minister Alexander Douglas-Home, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers sign the final protocol of the four power Berlin agreement in West Berlin.

Signing the Four Power Treaty

Photograph

Signing the Four Power Treaty

From left, French Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann, British Foreign Minister Alexander Douglas-Home, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers sign the final protocol of the four power Berlin agreement in West Berlin.
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National Archives and Records Administration

Treaty of Moscow

Treaty of Moscow

Historical Document

Treaty of Moscow

The 1970 non-agression Treaty of Moscow that German Chancellor Willy Brandt and Soviet Prime Minister Alexej Kosygin signed.
Chancellor Willy Brandt (left) and Soviet Prime Minister Alexej Kosygin (right) sign the Treaty of Moscow

Signing of the Treaty of Moscow

Photograph

Signing of the Treaty of Moscow

Chancellor Willy Brandt (left) and Soviet Prime Minister Alexej Kosygin (right) sign the Treaty of Moscow, an agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1970. The treaty renounces violence and is seen as a first step toward better cooperation between Western and Eastern Europe. Leonid Breshnev, Soviet Union communist leader, stands behind right.
At a meeting in Bonn on November 8, 1972, East German State Secretary Michael Kohl (left) and West German State Secretary Egon Bahr (right) initialed the Basic Treaty between West Germany and East Germany.

Initialing the Basic Treaty

Photograph

Initialing the Basic Treaty

Negotiations regarding the Basic Treaty between East and West Germany were extremely complicated and protracted because East Germany insisted on recognition as a separate nation under international law, while West Germany did not want to relinquish its hopes for reunification. At a meeting in Bonn on Nov. 8, 1972, East German State Secretary Michael Kohl (left) and West German State Secretary Egon Bahr (right) initialed the Basic Treaty between West Germany and East Germany. The treaty was officially signed on Dec. 21, 1972.
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Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, NY

Creating an Amenable Climate

Creating an Amenable Climate

When Charge d’Affaires ad interim Brandon Grove helped open the U.S. embassy to East Berlin, he required staff to live in that sector. The new embassy was determined to cultivate respect and a favorable U.S. image among East Germans. Diplomats rely on many skills to do this—among them, language, intelligence, allies among other nations’ and public diplomacy. The dark side was the ever-present Stasi (East German secret police) tailing diplomats’ activities and tapping their phones. U.S. citizens could travel to East Berlin, but stringent visa requirements regulated their movements.
U.S. diplomat Rozanne Ridgway is in the center of the action as U.S. Ambassador to East Berlin

Rozanne L. Ridgway, Ambassador, German Democratic Republic

Oral History

Rozanne L. Ridgway, Ambassador, German Democratic Republic

U.S. diplomat Rozanne Ridgway is in the center of the action as U.S. Ambassador to East Berlin. Ridgway described life’s challenges in East Germany and how she pursued a focused diplomatic strategy.
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National Archives and Records Administration

Stasi surveillance photograph of diplomat G. Jonathan Greenwald

Stasi Operational Assessment document on surveillance of diplomat G. Jonathan Greenwald

Historical Document

Stasi Operational Assessment document on surveillance of diplomat G. Jonathan Greenwald

Nearly 20 years after serving in East Berlin, U.S. diplomat G. Jonathan Greenwald received a several inches thick file the Stasi had compiled on him, his family and friends. This report covers a visit his wife and some friends paid to the city of Weimar, East Germany, in February 1989. The Stasi had taped Greenwald's telephone conversation planning the trip and tailed them during the excursion. The Stasi produced a detailed report beginning with the notation of their arrival in Weimar at 17:45 (5:45 p.m.) in the afternoon and continues with near minute-by-minute observations of their activity until they departed at 14:55 (2:55 p.m.) the next day. The “Operational Assessment” (pictured) concludes with an implied sense of disappointment: “The impression was gained that Greenwald and the persons accompanying him used their stay in Weimar to make themselves familiar with the worthwhile things to see and the places of activity relating to the great classic figures of German literature …. No contacts or attempts at contact by Greenwald and the persons accompanying him with other persons were established during the time they were observed …” Greenwald's appetite for German sausage gained him the Stasi nickname, "Ceaser. the Bockwurst Fan." The second image shows a Stasi surveillance photograph of diplomat G. Jonathan Greenwald.
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Courtesy of G. Jonathan Greenwald

The words reproduced in the image here are from the surveillance file on U.S. diplomat G. Jonathan Greenwald, East Berlin, compiled by the Stasi, or East German secret police.

Brandon Grove, Jr., Deputy Chief of Mission, East Berlin

Oral History

Brandon Grove, Jr., Deputy Chief of Mission, East Berlin

The words reproduced in the image here are from the surveillance file on U.S. diplomat G. Jonathan Greenwald, East Berlin, compiled by the Stasi, or East German secret police. U.S. diplomat Brandon Grove, Jr., posted to East Berlin, reflected on living in East Berlin with Stasi presence everywhere.
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Courtesy of G. Jonathan Greenwald

The colorful exhibition 'The Splendors of Dresden' opened the new East Wing of Washington, DC’s National Gallery of Art in 1978.

Edward Alexander, Public Affairs Officer, United States Information Agency, Berlin

Oral History

Edward Alexander, Public Affairs Officer, United States Information Agency, Berlin

The colorful exhibition 'The Splendors of Dresden' opened the new East Wing of Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art in 1978. U.S. diplomat Edward Alexander, East Berlin, explained its importance as he described his work in public diplomacy.
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Archives of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Helsinki Accords

Helsinki Accords

The lives lost crossing the Wall represented denial of the most basic human rights to live and travel in freedom. The Soviets touted the many-faceted 1975 Helsinki Accords (signed by 35 states—USA, Canada and nearly all of Europe) as a diplomatic victory, since they recognized post-war borders. in the Soviet bloc. Chagrin soon replaced Soviet self-congratulation when courageous dissidents and liberals from Eastern Europe demanded communist governments adhere to the Accords’ requirement to uphold fundamental freedoms and human rights.
Tourists look at the remembrance crosses for the victims of the Berlin wall, August 13, 2007 in Berlin

Crosses honor victims of the Berlin Wall

Photograph

Crosses honor victims of the Berlin Wall

Tourists look at the remembrance crosses for the victims of the Berlin wall, Aug. 13, 2007, in Berlin near the Reichstag (German Parliament Building).
Thirty-four of the foreign ministers who negotiated the Helsinki Accords gathered in this joint 1973 photo in Finland.

G. Jonathan Greenwald, Political Counselor, East Berlin

Oral History

G. Jonathan Greenwald, Political Counselor, East Berlin

Thirty-four of the foreign ministers who negotiated the Helsinki Accords gathered in this joint 1973 photo in Finland. U.S. diplomat in East Berlin G. Jonathan Greenwald explained how U.S. negotiators gauged Soviet reaction to the accords.
Signers of the 1975 Helsinki Accords in Finland include East German General Secretary Erich Honecker (left), U.S. President Gerald Ford (center) and Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky (right).

Thomas M.T. Niles, Office of Soviet Union Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Oral History

Thomas M.T. Niles, Office of Soviet Union Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Signers of the 1975 Helsinki Accords in Finland include East German General Secretary Erich Honecker (left), U.S. President Gerald Ford (center) and Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky (right). U.S. diplomat Thomas Niles, Washington, D.C., commented on the importance of human rights in this multinational agreement.
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National Archives and Records Administration

U.S. diplomat Winston Lord, Washington, D.C.,

Winston Lord, Policy Planning Staff to the Secretary of State

Oral History

Winston Lord, Policy Planning Staff to the Secretary of State

U.S. diplomat Winston Lord, Washington, D.C., pictured here, described how the Helsinki Accords of 1975 eventually helped support dissidents in Soviet bloc countries.
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National Archives and Records Administration

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