Sturm und Drang over Thatcher memoirs

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The Independent Online
THE STORM over Baroness Thatcher's memoirs had barely subsided in Britain before they were making fresh waves in Germany.

'Stop the German monster,' ran the headline in Der Spiegel, which carried eight pages of extracts, dealing with German unity. Bild, Germany's biggest-selling daily, talked of 'explosive revelations' about Lady Thatcher's attempts in 1989 and 1990 to keep Germany in its place.

Lady Thatcher paraphrases the German character as 'swerving unpredictably between aggression and self-doubt' (at the insistence of the publishers, HarperCollins, Lady Thatcher's comments are translated back from the German, and are not taken from the English text).

Germany, says Lady Thatcher, is 'simply much too big and much too powerful', and is 'a destabilising rather than a stabilising force in Europe'. She complains, too, that 'a united Europe would increaETHER write errorse and not limit the influence of a united Germany'. Lady Thatcher seems bitter that all those she had relied upon to resist German unity - the French, Russians, Americans - failed to do so. Only she fought on.

'Naturally', Lady Thatcher did not wish the East Germans to suffer under a Communist system. 'But I was sure that a true democracy would soon develop in East Germany, and that the question of reunification . . . should be dealt with separately.'

With more than a hint of condescension, she describes a telephone conversation with Chancellor Helmut Kohl the day after the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989. 'He seemed deeply moved by what he had seen - and what German would not have been?' The former prime minister did not regard this as a natural occasion for rejoicing.

She is sarcastic about Mr Kohl, who, at a summit just after the wall's fall, said that people should hear the voice of Europe. Lady Thatcher comments: 'He fulfilled this wish, by speaking for 40 minutes.' She retorted to the Chancellor that 'we should not get carried away by euphoria'. German unity, she complained, would undermine Mikhail Gorbachev, and it would 'open up a Pandora's box'.

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