If you think that German unification came naturally in the historical flow of the collapse of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, you are mistaken.

At that time, East Germany was facing a crisis such as large-scale protests and many East Germans fleeing to West Germany, but there were not many views that West Germany and East Germany could achieve one country.

Germany was a war criminal in World War II, and neighboring countries did not want unification, and Germany's sovereignty was not complete.

Germany was under the influence of the victors in World War II: the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Even within Germany, not many people expected that unification would be possible.

Under such circumstances, one of the main factors that made German unification possible is the leadership of then West German Chancellor Kohl and the support of the West German people, who did not miss the golden opportunity for unification.

Cole seizes the opportunity for unification

West Germany had little interest in reunification until mid-to-late 1989, when East Germans began to flee and mass protests began. In a situation of chaos in East Germany, it was the main concern of West Germany to ensure that it did not lead to violent situations or physical clashes within East Germany.

However, as the situation in East Germany became increasingly serious and the Berlin Wall was opened on November 9, the Kohl government began to shift its policy toward East Germany toward pursuing fundamental changes in East Germany rather than stability and reform in East Germany. do. Instead of providing economic support to East Germany, West Germany urged the East German government to initiate political reforms, including the release of political prisoners, acceptance of free elections, and recognition of critical opposition parties.

The Kohl government went one step further by submitting the '10-point plan for overcoming the division of Germany and Europe' to the Bundestag on November 28. The core of the '10-point plan' was to first form a treaty community proposed by East Germany, then go through the national confederation and finally go to a federally reunified country, a measure that Germany declared to take the lead in unification. Not long ago, he did not think deeply about unification, but Prime Minister Kohl began to feel that the historic opportunity of German reunification was approaching, and he was determined to pave the way for unification despite opposition at home and abroad.

However, until the '10 items' were announced, Cole thought it would take a considerable amount of time for unification.

Cole wrote in his memoirs that he thought German unification would be possible in three or four years at the time, but based on various comments made by Cole around this time, it seems that he assumed a long period of 5 to 10 years until unification.

The atmosphere for German reunification was being created, but the situation was still chaotic and the prospects were still uncertain.

At the turn of the year 1990, Prime Minister Cole turns once again.

Rather than waiting years for German unification, it was decided to promote unification as soon as possible.

Cole seemed to think that the historical opportunity of unification was coming sooner than expected and that it should not be missed.

A rapid change of direction to unification through a visit to Dresden

The major event that influenced Cole's change of direction appears to have been his visit to Dresden on December 19, 1989.

Dresden was a city suffering from the pains of war, where most of the city was destroyed by Allied bombing at the end of World War II, and 25,000 people were killed.

Kohl was greeted with enthusiasm by the East German people on this visit.

In his memoir, Cole wrote that a visit to Dresden was a key experience he had on the road to German unification, and he could clearly feel how much hope and expectation the East Germans place on him.

On the evening of December 19, when he called the attendants to a hotel room in Dresden, Cole said:

"Unification has just begun. It cannot be stopped any longer."

A visit to Dresden alone may not be enough to change Cole's mind, but it is clear that Cole's direction toward rapid unification has been going through this period anyway. Kohl turned to pursuing a power change in East Germany in a short time, while withholding the promise to form a treaty community with the East German government in mid-January 1990. Until the first free elections in East Germany were held in March 1990, the East German Modro (then Prime Minister of East Germany) government stopped all measures conducive to the stability of the .

And Cole didn't just watch the East German elections, he actively intervened. Cole's CDU was a political partner in East Germany, and after forming the 'German League' centered on the East German CDM, intervened in the election and won.

In particular, just before the election, Kohl announced a 1:1 ratio of East-West German currency exchange rates that matched the needs of East German residents, giving the 'German League' an overwhelming victory with 48% support. Although there are criticisms that Kohl used the unification policy as an election strategy, it is also a fact that Kohl's victory contributed to the rapid reunification of Germany. Germany suffered considerable aftereffects due to the currency exchange in a 1:1 ratio that did not fit the economic reality. In Kohln's memoirs, he defended his decision on the way to unification as follows:

“The cost of unification was higher than I expected, but I would not have acted otherwise if I had known about it in advance. Because it was obviously going to be a big burden.”

Even when the Berlin Wall was opened, the situation at that time was so fluid that it was impossible to predict the unification that would take place only 11 months later.

However, when Cole thought that the opportunity for unification was approaching as the situation turned more urgent than expected, he did not delay and seized the opportunity.

One might criticize that the aftereffects of German unification would have been small if they had taken more time to promote unification, but there is no one who can confidently say that the unification train would have been waiting for the unification even after the time was wasted. will be

The people of West Germany who supported Kohl's unification policy

Although Kohl's leadership played an important role in the German unification phase, Kohl's leadership was able to lead to concrete results because the people of West Germany generally supported Kohl's unification policy. Of course, it was not that there were no voices of opposition in West Germany. Opposition parties such as the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party and left-wing intellectuals insisted on the existence of East Germany while wishing for reform in East Germany.

However, Cole overcame these differences with his political sensibility, and the people of West Germany gave strength to Cole's policies. If the people of West Germany had raised their voices against unification, which could be an immediate burden, it would have been difficult to achieve unification no matter how much Cole showed his leadership. In this sense, when the 'window of opportunity' of unification opens, the decisive factor that will determine the success or failure of unification is the will for unification from within, not from the outside. When such a phase approaches, can we seize the opportunity of unification without missing out on it?