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This issue of Eurostudia is built around selected papers presented at the international conference Le retour de l’histoire? Répercussions européennes et internationales de la réunification allemande held at Montreal’s Goethe-Institut September 29 to October 1, 2010. Organized by the Centre canadien d’études allemandes et européennes, the Centre d’excellence sur l’Union européenne, and the Centre d’études et de recherches internationales de l’Université de Montréal in collaboration with the German Consulate General, the conference commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the two postwar Germanys’ unification on October 3, 1990.
Overshadowed in collective memory by the momentous “fall” of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, German reunification nonetheless marked the end of a year of equally momentous and even more decisive events that assured a remarkably pacific conclusion to the Cold War. Among these events were the “Two-plus-Four” talks permitting not only the restoration of German sovereignty but a geopolitical realignment of Europe and the world. Often forgotten is the fact that these talks first got under way during secret negotiations in Ottawa in February, 1990. The first two contributions to this issue by the Right Honourable Joe Clark, Foreign Minister of Canada at the time, and historian Ursula Lehmkuhl explore these events today still shrouded in diplomatic secrecy.
Germany and Europe’s geopolitical reunification did not put an end to their cultural divisions. As political scientist Pierre-Frédéric Weber analyses in his contribution, memories of totalitarian suffering remain distinct and politically salient in the “old” and “new” Europes. Similarly, Peperkamp et al. explore the nuances of historical memory and local identity among eastern Germans confronted with the challenges of adaptation. Journalist Robert Ide’s particularly poignant personal memories bring home the mixed emotions of unification, while philosopher Wolfram Eilenberger’s allegorical treatment of East German-born soccer (anti-) hero Michael Ballack brilliantly exposes the enduring cultural tensions of German unification. Finally, moving back to the European level and the recent crisis of the Euro, economist Jean-François Jamet’s contribution (in English and French versions) explores the tensions between united Germany’s economic strength and political commitment to a unified Europe.
Audio-video versions of these papers as well as of the entire reunification conference are available at www.germanstudies.ca/berlinwall