Tuesday, November 16, 1999 Published at 17:37 GMT
Kohl: 'Luck kept out Soviet tanks'
In an exclusive interview with BBC News 24's Hardtalk, Helmut Kohl tells Tim Sebastian that 24 hours after the fall of the Wall he was in Berlin.
The East German security police, the Stasi, and the KGB feared a public uprising, Mr Kohl says, and they wanted President Gorbachev to give the order to move in the tanks.
'History could have taken a different turn'
"I then sent him the message via my assistant, since I could not telephone him from the town hall, that this was all lies, that it wasn't true, that these were peaceful people.
"They wanted to remove the wall, they did not want to commit aggressive acts against the Soviet Union or any Soviet installations."
'Gorbachev believed me, not KGB'
It was lucky that Mr Gorbachev believed him, the former German chancellor says, and not the people in the KGB, and "in this way everything went off peacefully".
"Therefore, the actual decision was made that night, and history would have taken a very different turn if Soviet tanks had appeared on the streets," Helmut Kohl tells Tim Sebastian.
A second Prague Spring
"And then the world would have recognised that no-one can change this line unless this is accomplished by peaceful means, and no-one would have understood if during that night a military confrontation had developed because of what was happening.
"Therefore it really was a stroke of luck, and I am grateful to Gorbachev in particular for this, that he believed us, especially me, and not the KGB."
In the interview, Mr Kohl denies that he misled the German public when in he promised that the unification of Germany would come at no extra cost to the people in the West, and promised that the people of the East would face a bright economic future.
"There was a discussion in the summer of 1990 in which the then newly elected government demanded of the old Federal Government that when unification was completed, there would be money left over ... Dm1,200bn would be left over when everything was settled.
"Others talked about a figure of Dm600bn, anyhow, that amounts to a large surplus."
But in 1993, Helmut Kohl's CDU-led government had to introduce new taxes to pay for the creation of the "flourishing landscapes" in the East, as he put it at the time.
They have indeed been created there, "not yet everywhere, but the upturn is clearly visible to anyone who travels through the former GDR," the former chancellor says, adding that "many people, who today cleverly blather on have quite forgotten what they were saying in those days".