Historic Phone Call

Historic Phone Call Between Friends at a Culminating Moment

Celebrations in front of the Reichstag Oct. 3, 1990 Enlarge image (© BPA) On the afternoon of October 3, 1990, after a night of joyous celebrating across Germany ushered in the day on which East and West Germany officially became one, Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Berlin received a phone call from his friend and fellow statesman President George H. W. Bush in Washington.

Since the Fall of the Wall on November 9, 1989 had pleasantly caught most world leaders off guard, the two heads of government had met numerous times in Bonn, Washington, and even Camp David and been in regular contact via phone and letter, to discuss the delicate international balancing act required to usher in reunification and peacefully secure a united Germany’s place in Europe and within the North Atlantic Alliance.

Chancellor Kohl was especially grateful to President Bush for a letter Bush had written him in February 1990 on the eve of Kohl’s fateful meeting with Soviet President Mikail Gorbachev in Moscow, a meeting at which Kohl received assurances that the USSR would not stand in the way of the reunification of Germany.
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation (c) George Bush Presidential Library and Museum Enlarge image (© (c) George Bush Presidential Library and Museum) Now Bush was calling to congratulate Kohl on the achievement of unification.

The call lasted only three minutes, but it spoke volumes about the warm relationship that had grown between the two leaders and about the permanent bond of gratitude forged between their countries that would not end with the Cold War.

George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl have remained friends-Kohl was the first recipient of the George Bush Award—and have come together over the years to mark the Day of German Unity. In 1999, ten years after the Fall of the Wall, the two leaders and Mikhail Gorbachev came together in Berlin for the national Day of German Unity celebration.

Kohl Bush

Chancellor Bush and President Bush (c) bpa/Lothar Schaack

The Phone Call

Telephone (c) dpa/Michael Memminger

“Helmut!” Bush called into the phone. “I am sitting in a meeting with members of our Congress and am calling at the end of this historic day to wish you well.”

“Words can’t describe the feeling,” said Kohl, noting that the night before, one million people had come to celebrate on the very spot at the Brandenburg Gate where Ronald Reagan in 1987 had called on Gorbachev to “open this gate.”

“A short time ago there was enormous applause when our President said that our gratitude was owed especially to our Allied friends and above all our American friends.

I share that view,” Kohl said. “When the parliamentary declaration is made, it will say that all American Presidents from Harry Truman all the way up to our friend George Bush made this possible. I would like to thank you again for all your support for us.”

Bush said he had to run, “but I wanted you to know what pride we have in standing by the German people.”