The Two plus Four Treaty in UNESCO´s Memory of the World Register

Logo des UNESCO-Weltkulturerbes „Bau und Fall der Berliner Mauer und der Zwei-plus-Vier Vertrag von 1990“ mit dem Zusatz „Memory of the World 2011“

On 25 May 2011, UNESCO added the Two plus Four Treaty and 14 documents from other archives recording the construction and fall of the Berlin Wall to the Memory of the World Register. UNESCO describes the Memory of the World Register as “a worldwide digital network featuring a selection of exceptional documents: valuable collections of books, manuscripts, musical scores, unique documents, pictures, sound recordings and films”. The Two plus Four Treaty shares this honour with a mere 250 other documents, examples of which from Germany include the 42-line Gutenberg Bible, the manuscript of the Song of the Nibelungs and the score of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Übergabe der Aufnahmeurkunde
Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, presents the document “Memory of the World” to the former Minister for Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle© AA

Back in the 1950s the “Germany Treaty” had brought a great deal of sovereignty to the Federal Republic and, in the GDR too, it was at this time that the direct occupational rule came to an end, although there remained little political room for manoeuvre with regard to the Soviet Union. Moreover, rights and responsibilities regarding Berlin and Germany as a whole were retained by the victorious powers of the Second World War.

Therefore, when in early 1990 the prospect of unifying the two German states appeared on the horizon, it was clear from the outset that the involvement of the four victorious powers would be a prerequisite. Numerous rounds of negotiations at various locations from May 1990 onwards gave rise to the fitting name of “Two plus Four talks”, referring to the number of participants. Following this, on 12 September 1990, the Treaty on the Final Settlement with respect to Germany was signed in Moscow by Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Lothar de Maizière (Prime Minister and, following the resignation of Markus Meckel, also Foreign Minister of the GDR), Roland Dumas, Eduard Shevardnadze, Douglas Hurd and James A. Baker.

Germany’s existing borders were confirmed as was its renunciation of NBC weapons. With this, united Germany gained “full sovereignty over its internal and external affairs...”, expressly linked to the right to freely choose alliances, something which Gorbachev had finally agreed to at the famous meeting with Kohl and Genscher in Archys in the Caucasus on 16 July 1990. With the protocol of 24 September 1990 between the Soviet Union and the GDR, the latter itself withdrew its armed forces from the Warsaw Pact.

From right to the left: Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Lothar de Maizière, Roland Dumas. Behind: Mikhail Gorbachev.
From right to the left: Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Lothar de Maizière, Roland Dumas. Behind: Mikhail Gorbachev.© Bundesregierung

As the Two plus Four Treaty was a multilateral agreement, not all the contracting parties received an original – in contrast to bilateral treaties. For multilateral treaties, one of the contracting parties usually acts as depositary and thus the document stored in the Political Archive of the Federal Foreign Office is the only original copy of the treaty in existence.

Additional content

According to the original in the Political Archive

See UNESCO´s “Memory of the World” dossier

UNESCO´s dossier

A presentation by the German Historical Museum

German Historical Museum

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