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50th anniversary of the signing of the Basic Treaty between East and West Germany

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Authored by Sean Waite
Published on 21st December, 2022 1 min read

50th anniversary of the signing of the Basic Treaty between East and West Germany

A photo taken at the signing of the Basic Treaty in Berlin.

On 21/12/1972, fifty years ago today, East and West Germany signed the Basic Treaty in Berlin. In the context of the Cold War détente, this treaty marked the acknowledgement of each nation's individual sovereignty for the first time.

For West Germany, the treaty represented the final nail in the coffin for the influential Hallstein Doctrine, which from 1955 to 1970 had dictated that West Germany was the true representative of the German people and therefore would refuse formal diplomatic relations with East Germany or any country that recognised it.

East Germany had abandoned its claim to represent all German people in the 1960s and the Basic Treaty was ratified in line with its new ambition to act as a sovereign state over East German territory. The treaty also facilitated the opening of relations between East Germany and the United Kingdom and France (both in 1973), as well as the United States (in 1974).

The Basic Treaty paved the way for both countries to join the United Nations in 1973. Despite this rapprochement, tensions between East and West Germany would continue for the remainder of the Cold War. Formal diplomatic relations between the two countries were not established until German reunification in 1990.

The signing of the Basic Treaty should be remembered as one of the first significant steps on the long and arduous path to the unification of Germany.


Authored by Sean Waite

Sean Waite

Sean Waite is a Political Science graduate of Birmingham and Aarhus University.


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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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