Germany's neighbors try to redeem their 1989 negativity

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Germans have often noted British tourists' World War II obsession with a mixture of bemusement and dismay. But recent revelations have shown that this preoccupation, usually expressed in the un-threatening confines of comedy, was also the British prime minister's deep personal phobia at the time of Germany's reunification.

While USA and, surprisingly, the Soviet Union, largely welcomed the moment of redemption and euphoria that ushered in the end of a black century, Germany's non-superpower neighbors were prey to old fears.

"It is still an uncomfortable thought," Professor Paul Nolte, who teaches history at the Free University in Berlin, told Deutsche Welle, "That something that Germans were so happy about, and that unified Europe, could have been rejected by our closest partners. We ask ourselves, 'How could anyone have been against it?' "

At the end of October this year, France followed Britain in releasing its foreign policy archives from 1989 and 1990 in the run-up to the reunification of Germany. Although the files will not precipitate a major reassessment of history, they illustrate the depth of fear among western leaders who were publicly celebrating the victory of democratic freedom over communism.

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