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World leaders recall the fall of the Berlin Wall

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Thatcher: Unlike George Bush, I was opposed to German unification from early on for the obvious reasons. To unify Germany would make her the dominant nation in the European community. They are powerful, and they are efficient. It would become a German Europe.

But unification was accomplished, really, very much without consulting the rest of Europe. We were always amazed that it happened. My generation, of course, remembers that we had two world wars against Germany, and that it was a very racist society in the second. Those things that took place in Germany could never happen in Britain.

I also thought it wrong that East Germany, whom, after all, we fought against, should be the first to come into the European Community, while Poland and Czechoslovakia, whom we went to war for, had to wait. They should have been free in 1945 but were kept under the Communist yoke until the collapse of the Soviet Union and, even now, are not sufficiently integrated into Europe and suffer from protectionism.

Bush: To be very frank, we had our differences with Lady Thatcher and Francois Mitterrand. Perhaps it was because I didn't share their concerns based on the histories of the two world wars. Maybe it is because America is removed and separated.

But I felt that German unification would be in the fundamental interest of the West. I felt the time had come to trust the Germans more, given what they had done since the end of World War II.

I was convinced, also, that Helmut Kohl would not take a united Germany out of NATO. I was convinced he would opt for the West and not neutrality between NATO and the Warsaw Pact as Mr. Gorbachev wanted. The whole process moved faster than any of us thought, including Chancellor Kohl. President Mitterrand was in the middle of all this...

Mitterrand: The issue was whether unification was a certainty, or could it be prevented?

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