‘Atlantic Alliance.’ On 30 May 1989, as the process of political and economic transformation is taking shape in the Eastern bloc, French cartoonist Plantu illustrates the dissatisfaction of the Federal Republic of Germany’s Western partners at the attempts by Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl to establish closer relations with Mikhail Gorbachev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (on the right). US President George Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President François Mitterrand fear that the FRG is turning away from the Atlantic Alliance to focus on its relations with Moscow in anticipation of future negotiations on possible German reunification. The comparison with the image of Mitterrand and Kohl holding hands at the ceremony to commemorate the Battle of Verdun in 1984 illustrates the Chancellor’s desire to extend the Franco-German duo to include the Soviet Union.
‘Don’t worry, things will carry on as they were!’ On 14 October 1989, cartoonist Pancho illustrates the fears of French President Mitterrand at the prospect of German reunification and a return to German hegemony in Europe. Despite the good relations between Paris and Bonn, President Mitterrand (on the left) doesn’t seem to be reassured by the words of Chancellor Kohl, who is holding his hand and is depicted as a giant. On the night of 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall came down in front of the world’s cameras, and one year later, on 3 October 1990, Germany celebrated its reunification.
‘National anthem.’ In 1989, German cartoonist Walter Hanel takes an ironic look at the fears of the leaders of the Four Powers — the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union — regarding Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s 10-point programme for the reunification of Germany. From left to right: US President George Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, French President François Mitterrand and First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. Operating the handle of the barrel organ is German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, accompanied by his Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher.
At a press conference held by the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands — SED), Günter Schabowski, Information Secretary in the Central Committee of the SED, announces that citizens from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) will be able to make personal trips abroad without conditions, effective immediately. This unexpected statement, in which Schabowski also confirms that travel from the GDR will be possible at all checkpoints to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and to West Berlin, leads to the fall of the Berlin Wall during the night of 9 to 10 November 1989.
‘Honestly, you’ve got nothing to worry about …’ On 16 November 1989, one week after the fall of the Berlin Wall, French cartoonist Wiazemsky, known as ‘Wiaz’, illustrates the concerns of Germany’s European partners at the possible return of a unified Germany to the international stage. From left to right: British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President François Mitterrand hardly seem reassured by the words of Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl, whose depiction as a giant illustrates fears of a revival of German hegemony in Europe.
On 18 November 1989, more than a week after the fall of the Berlin Wall, German cartoonist Dithard von Rabenau paints an ironic picture of the reunion between the RDA (Egon Krenz, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party) and the FRG (Helmut Kohl, Federal Chancellor). The question of reunification is not simply a domestic matter in Germany. The status of Germany and Berlin can only be changed with the agreement of the four victorious powers of 1945. They are concerned at the formation of a state with 80 million citizens at the heart of Europe, whose political, economic and financial clout threatens to upset the balance and disrupt the stability that the division of Germany had helped to create. The cartoon shows the leaders of the four powers — Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; George Bush, US President; Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister; and French President François Mitterrand — seemingly rather shaken by the speed of events and the newfound emancipation of the two Germanies.
On 17 November 1989, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, German cartoonist Peter Leger illustrates French concerns at the question of German unification. For President Mitterrand (shown wearing a Phrygian cap), the unity of a divided Germany is conditioned by European unification and the strengthening of the Community institutions. He intends to secure guarantees from Chancellor Kohl (wearing the cap of little ‘German Michel’), since the aim is to establish a reunified Germany with democratic institutions, integrated into the European Community. Chancellor Kohl answers these concerns by affirming that German and European unity are two sides of the same coin.
‘Tonton sets things straight. The economy of the west before that of the east! Ja, ja, nach Paris first!’ On 22 November 1989, French cartoonist Ferdinand Guiraud paints an ironic picture of the fears of French President François Mitterrand (on the left) confronted with the economic clout of a unified German state and the revival of Pan-Germanism. To emphasise the fears of Paris, Chancellor Helmut Kohl (on the right) is sporting a military uniform and the pointed helmet worn by the Prussian and German armies.
On 8 December 1989, cartoonist Pancho illustrates the fears of French President François Mitterrand at the prospect of a unified Germany in Europe, and paints an ironic picture of how France and the Soviet Union have become closer. Two days earlier, on 6 December, the French President went to Kiev to meet Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and discuss the question of German unification. During this meeting, the two men expressed their concerns at the German unification process. The image shows François Mitterrand (centre) holding the hand of Mikhail Gorbachev (on the left). Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl (on the right) speculates on France’s attitude.
‘Helmut! Can we start? I’m coming, I’m coming!’ On 9 December 1989, as the European Council meets in Strasbourg, French cartoonist Plantu offers an ironic take on the trial of strength between French President François Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (on the right), who seems more concerned with German reunification than with speeding up progress towards European Economic and Monetary Union.
‘All is well … mission accomplished! I hope it will hold firm!!’ On 14 December 1989, French cartoonist Tignous (Bernard Verlhac) paints an ironic picture of the fears of French President François Mitterrand that a future reunified Germany will turn away from the European integration process, instead embracing a policy of rapprochement with the USSR and Eastern Europe. Mitterrand is obliged to accept the German unification process, but sees it as playing a secondary role to European unification and the strengthening of the Community institutions. Shortly after the Strasbourg European Council in December 1989, Tignous depicts France’s attempts to make sure that reunification takes place within the framework of European integration. The imposing German Chancellor Kohl, oversized compared with his European partners, is shackled to a ball and chain in the colours of the European Community, with hopes that it will hold firm.
On 21 December 1989, cartoonist Pancho illustrates the concerns of French President François Mitterrand (on the left) at the question of German unity. Paris is worried about the consequences of a simple absorption of the GDR by the FRG and the creation, at the heart of Europe, of an 80-million-strong state whose political, economic and financial clout would threaten to upset the balance that has prevailed for more than 40 years. On the European flag carried by Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl (on the right), one of the stars, larger than the others, symbolises the new unified Germany and the new power relationship within the European Communities. Even though the two men greet each other, relations within the Franco-German duo are strained by the question of German unification.
On 15 February 1990, German cartoonist Walter Hanel illustrates the many obstacles standing in the way of German reunification. Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl (at the top of the ski slope) must allay the fears of the four powers (Soviet Union, United States, United Kingdom and France) and quiet the concerns of neighbours and friends (Poland and Israel). The Chancellor affirms that German unity will be achieved within the framework of the European Community, commits to keeping a unified Germany in NATO and promises that reunification will be carried out in close cooperation with the Allies.
‘Reunification? No problem — I’ve got it firmly in my pocket!’ On 16 February 1990, the day after Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s visit to the Élysée Palace, French cartoonist Alain Tredez paints an ironic picture of the reservations of President François Mitterrand concerning the ‘fait accompli’ policy of Chancellor Kohl with regard to the question of German reunification and the simple absorption of the German Democratic Republic by West Germany. For Chancellor Kohl, the fate of the GDR is already sealed.
On 19 February 1990, Austrian cartoonist Ironimus (Gustav Peichl) illustrates how Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl intends to quiet the concerns of the four powers (Soviet Union, United States, United Kingdom and France) by affirming that German and European unity are two sides of the same coin. Reunification is not merely a domestic German issue. Chancellor Kohl has an essential role to play at international level to secure the agreement of the four Allied powers of the Second World War and to calm the fears of neighbouring countries.
‘Kohl–Tonton: we won’t grow old together … unless we decide to stay together for the children!’ On 21 February 1990, French cartoonist Cabu takes an ironic look at the new power relationship between the Franco-German duo Kohl and Mitterrand. The contrast between today’s image and the famous scene in which the two stood hand in hand in Verdun in 1984 illustrates how Franco-German relations have changed. The Federal Republic of Germany is no longer the political dwarf it once was. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl has been working tirelessly for German reunification, sparking fears for the French partner of German political and economic hegemony.
On 24 March 1990, as the process of German unification takes place, French cartoonist Tim (Louis Mitelberg) paints an ironic picture of the return of the new German power to the international stage. For German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in ‘1990, Germany lost the war but won peace’. The French cartoonist draws a parallel with the famous proclamation by General de Gaulle displayed on the walls of London in August 1940 during the Second World War: ‘France has lost a battle, but [France] has not lost the war’.
On 26 April 1990, at the 55th Franco-German consultations at the Élysée Palace, French President François Mitterrand (on the right) and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl express their views on political union in Europe and reaffirm the efforts of their two countries in that direction. They also discuss the economic and monetary consequences of the forthcoming reunification of Germany.
‘EC–Union!’ On 30 April 1990, in view of the question of German reunification, Austrian cartoonist Ironimus (Gustav Peichl) illustrates the attitude of French President François Mitterrand, who reminds Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the vital role of the Franco-German axis in the European integration process. Paris fears that the new unified Germany will turn away from Europe and France and favour relations with Eastern Europe and Moscow. For François Mitterrand, the Franco-German duo needs to provide the momentum for a European political union. The cartoon shows the feet of the French President attached to those of the Chancellor to make sure that he is following on the path to European unification.
‘Franco-German axis. 1982: Tonton’s dream...1990: a rude awakening.’ On 3 October 1990, the day of German unification, French cartoonist Ferdinand Guiraud paints an ironic picture of the changing power relationship within the Franco-German duo. In 1982, French President François Mitterrand (referred to as ‘Tonton’) considers himself to be the driving force of the Paris–Bonn tandem, but the situation is reversed in 1990 with German unification, which sees Germany (represented by Chancellor Helmut Kohl) taking the place of France and crushing it with the full weight of its political, economic and financial force.
On 25 October 1990, German cartoonist Walter Hanel paints an ironic picture of the political, economic and financial influence of a united Germany and the major role the country intends to play on the European stage. This policy seems to be irritating the other European partners, who observe the action of the new Germany under Chancellor Kohl with suspicion. In the background, French President François Mitterrand, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands are worried to see Germany taking centre stage.
‘Sorry, but since the decision to choose Berlin, nothing works here any more.’ On 24 July 1991, German cartoonist Karl-Heinz Schoenfeld illustrates the shortcomings in diplomatic protocol since Berlin was proclaimed as the capital of the reunified Germany. It seems that nothing is in place to host the European Heads of State as they alight from the plane. Chancellor Kohl apologises to French President Mitterrand while officials bustle about trying to unfurl the red carpet. One month earlier, on 20 June 1991, the German Parliament narrowly chose Berlin as capital of a reunified Germany over the city of Bonn, which had served as capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. This choice was preceded by impassioned debates in Germany and abroad, since Berlin still held bad memories as the capital of Nazi Germany.