HomeFrance and the German Question, 1945-1990

HomeFrance and the German Question, 1945-1990

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Published on Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Ce colloque s'intéressera à l'un des volets majeurs de la politique étrangère de la France durant la guerre froide : la question allemande. L'attitude des diplomates et des dirigeants français des IVe et Ve Républiques vis-à-vis de l'Allemagne ayant fait l'objet de nombreux travaux au cours de ces vingt dernières années, le colloque s'attachera à faire le point sur l'état de la recherche en la matière.



Few would dispute the fact that the German question was definitively closed on October 3rd, 1990 when Germany once again became a unified and fully sovereign country. For forty-five years, the German question was both a nexus of intricate issues relating to the much postponed settlement of Germany’s defeat in World War II and a fundamental interrogation on the desirable future(s) of Germany—or the two Germanys—in Europe and in the international system as a whole. It was, arguably, the most central issue throughout the Cold War, at least in Europe : “The German problem,” General Charles de Gaulle famously declared in 1965, “is the European problem.”

As such, the German question was central for all European powers, including of course the two superpowers, whose antagonistic relationship determined the fate of the divided country throughout the Cold War. Yet one country stands out as perhaps the most concerned of all : France. The factors explaining that country’s particular interest in—and influence over—the German question in that period are multiple. History, of course, is key : over the course of three quarters of a century, the Franco-German conflict had been responsible for three wars, including the two world wars. Solving the German question, from 1945 onward, could not be achieved without overcoming this conflict ; conversely, Franco- German reconciliation, in and of itself, was central to solving the German question. Another major factor behind the importance of the German question for France — and of France’s policies for Germany — had to do with the politics of European construction : to a large extent as a result of the foregoing, France and Germany, since 1950, have been the leading forces shaping the European community. The two countries thus created one of the most important preconditions for solving the German question and allowing for Germany’s unification peacefully. (Two other important preconditions, or sets of preconditions, were of course, respectively, the existence of NATO and the role of the United States, and European détente and the role of the Soviet Union.)

To be sure, France’s role in the German question has been the subject of considerable research, especially in the past twenty years. Yet systematic explorations of this matter both in its thematic breadth and chronological depth are scarce. The time has come for such an exploration. To a large extent, archival sources are now accessible for most of the period in most countries, including in France. Franco-German relations are no longer determined by this once vital consideration, thus allowing for a more detached treatment of this issue. In addition and even more importantly, the historiography has entered a phase of renewal. France’s policies with regard to the German question in that period are being revaluated, especially in the early decade (1945-1955) and in the final one (1981-1991). Relying on new archival material and/or new interpretations, historians have recently shown that these policies were far more significant and constructive than was previously believed, both in terms of accepting West Germany’s resurgence in the immediate post war period and in terms of eventually accepting German unification.


Pour les personnes désireuses d'assister au colloque, inscription obligatoire sur le site : http://www.univ-paris3.fr/france-and-the-german-question-1945-1990-178081.kjsp

Thursday, February 7th

13h30 Registration

14h00 Welcome addresses

  • Frédéric Bozo, Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle, Paris 3
  • Stefan Martens, Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris

1/ France, the “Long” Cold War, and the German Question

Chair: Stefan Martens, Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris

14h30 – 16h15 Panel 1

  • Lily Gardner Feldman, American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, Johns Hopkins University: “The Possibilities and Limits of Reconciliation with Germany during the Cold War”
  • Thomas Angerer, Universität Wien: “Banned From but Bound With: The Austrian Problem and the German Question in French perspective”
  • Matthieu Osmont, SciencesPo: “The French Ambassadors in Bonn and the German Question, 1955-1990”

Comment: Anne Deighton, University of Oxford

16h15 – 16h45 Coffee break

16h45 – 18h Panel 2

  • Pierre-Frédéric Weber, University of Szczecin: “France, Poland, and Germany's Eastern border (1945-1990)”
  • Ulrich Pfeil, Université de Lorraine: “France-GDR relations and the German Question, 1949-1989”

Comment: Hélène Miard-Delacroix, Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV

Friday, February 8th

2/ The Early Cold War and the German Question

Chair: Horst Möller, Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin

9h – 10h15 Panel 3

  • Rainer Hudemann, Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV/Universität des Saarlandes: “France and the German Question 1945-1950. Reflections on the evolution of research and interpretations since the after-war years”
  • Françoise Berger, Sciences Po Grenoble: “Economic and industrial issues in France's approach to the German question in the post-war period”

Comment: Eric Bussière, Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV

10h15 – 10h45 Coffee break

10h45 – 12h00 Panel 4

  • Michael Creswell, Florida State University: “France, German Rearmament, and the German Question 1950-1955”
  • Geoffrey Roberts, University College Cork: “France, the German Question and European Collective Security: The View from Moscow, 1953-1957”

Comment: Jean-Christophe Romer, Université de Strasbourg

12h – 13h Lunch break

3/ A de Gaulle Factor ?

Chair: Maurice Vaïsse, SciencesPo

13h – 14h45 Panel 5

  • Garret Martin, George Washington University: “An arbiter between the superpowers: General de Gaulle and the German question, 1958-1969”
  • Benedikt Schoenborn, University of Tampere: “The German Question in French and German Eastern policies of the 1960s”
  • Philip Bajon, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem: “‘Head-on Clash of Reconciled Hereditary Enemies’? The German Question in the European Crisis of 1965-66”

Comment: N. Piers Ludlow, London School of Economics

14h45 – 15h15 Coffee break

4/ Détente and Ostpolitik: The German Question revisited?

Chair: Robert Frank, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

15h15 – 16h30 Panel 6

  • Andreas Wilkens, Université de Lorraine: “France, Ostpolitik, and the German Question, 1969-1974”
  • Nicolas Badalassi, Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle, Paris 3: “France, the CSCE and the German Question 1969-1975”

Comment: Marie-Pierre Rey, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

16h45 – 18h Panel 7

  • Georges-Henri Soutou, Université Paris-Sorbonne: “Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and the German Problem”
  • Guido Thiemeyer, Université de Cergy-Pontoise: “Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Helmut Schmidt and the German question 1969-1979.”

Comment: Matthias Waechter, Institut européen Nice

Saturday, February 9th

5/ The Cold War Endgame

Chair: Frédéric Bozo, Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle, Paris 3

9h15 – 11h00 Panel 8

  • Katrin Rücker, Université de Genève: “France, the Euromissile Crisis and the German Question in the 1980s” 
  • Bernd Rother, Bundeskanzler Willy Brandt Stiftung:  “Willy Brandt, François Mitterrand, the German Question and German Unification, 1981-1990”
  • Christian Wenkel, Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris: “Recognizing the GDR without recognizing German division. The example of François Mitterrand’s trip to the GDR in 1989”

Comment: Georges Saunier, Institut François Mitterrand

11h00 – 11h30 Coffee break

11h30 – 13h15 Panel 9

  • Ilaria Poggiolini, University of Pavia: “Britain, France, and German Unification”
  • Jeffrey Engel, Southern Methodist University: “Bush, Germany, and the Power of Time”
  • Mary Sarotte, University of Southern California: “Conflicting French and American Visions for the Post-Cold War World”

Comment: Andreas Rödder, Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

13h15 Conclusions

  • Marie-Pierre Rey, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Scientific Committee

Frédéric Bozo (Sorbonne Nouvelle – Université Paris III), Marie-Pierre Rey (Université Panthéon Sorbonne – Paris I), Stefan Martens (Deutsches Historisches Institut), N. Piers Ludlow (London School of Economics), Hélène Miard- Delacroix (Université Paris Sorbonne – Paris IV), Mary Sarotte (University of Southern California), Christian Wenkel (Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität München), Andreas Wilkens (Université de Lorraine)


  • Institut Historique Allemand (7 et 8 février) | centre Panthéon (9 février) - 8 rue du parc royal | 12 place du Panthéon
    Paris, France (75003 | 75005)


  • Thursday, February 07, 2013
  • Friday, February 08, 2013
  • Saturday, February 09, 2013

Attached files


  • France, Allemagne, guerre froide


  • Nicolas Badalassi
    courriel : nicolas [dot] badalassi [at] univ-ubs [dot] fr

Information source

  • Nicolas Badalassi
    courriel : nicolas [dot] badalassi [at] univ-ubs [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« France and the German Question, 1945-1990 », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, https://calenda.org/235915

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