Year
1990

German occupation rights are relinquished

Representatives from the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union sign an agreement giving up all occupation rights in Germany. The largely symbolic action cleared the way for East and West Germany to reunite.

In 1945, the Allied Powers–America, England, France, and the Soviet Union–agreed that defeated Nazi Germany would be divided into four zones of occupation, one for each nation. Berlin would be likewise divided. The separation was intended to be temporary, but Cold War animosities quickly developed after World War II and the division between the Russian zone and those controlled by the other three nations became permanent. In the late 1940s, the American, French, and English zones were consolidated into West Germany and the Soviet zone became East Germany. The division came to symbolize the Cold War, and the divided Germany was the scene of many Cold War dramas, like the Berlin Airlift. In 1961, East German authorities began construction of the Berlin Wall, physically dividing East and West Berlin.

By 1989, however, the communist grip on East Germany was rapidly slipping away. The Soviet Union, facing its own severe economic and political problems, could do little to prop up the East German communist regime. In November 1989, the East German government announced that the Berlin Wall would be torn down. The next year, representatives from East and West Germany began negotiations to finally reunite their country. Among the many obstacles to overcome was the historical legacy of occupation by the Allied forces. Although the four Allies had long since removed their occupation forces and given up most of their occupation rights, some treaty rights still technically remained–for instance, the four countries still had the right to “oversee” Berlin. On September 12, 1990, representatives from the four nations met in Moscow and formally gave up all remaining occupation rights in Germany. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze declared, “We are going through emotional and historic events…We have drawn a line under World War II and we have started keeping the time of a new age.” In October 1990, East and West Germany formally reunited under a democratic government.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Khrushchev elected Soviet leader

Six months after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev succeeds him with his election as first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.Born into a Ukrainian peasant family in 1894, Khrushchev worked as a mine mechanic before joining the Soviet ...read more

Violence in Boston over racial busing

In Boston, Massachusetts, opposition to court-ordered school “busing” turns violent on the opening day of classes. School buses carrying African American children were pelted with eggs, bricks, and bottles, and police in combat gear fought to control angry white protesters ...read more

Steven Biko dies

Steven Biko, leader of South Africa’s “Black Consciousness Movement,” dies of severe head trauma on the stone floor of a prison cell in Pretoria. Six days earlier, he had suffered a major blow to his skull during a police interrogation in Port Elizabeth. Instead of receiving ...read more

JFK marries Jacqueline Bouvier

Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts marries Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, a photographer for the Washington Times-Herald, at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island. More than 750 guests attended the ceremony presided over by Boston Archbishop Richard Cushing and ...read more

Lascaux cave paintings discovered

Near Montignac, France, a collection of prehistoric cave paintings are discovered by four teenagers who stumbled upon the ancient artwork after following their dog down a narrow entrance into a cavern. The 15,000- to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal ...read more

The Laconia is sunk

On this day in 1942, a German U-boat sinks a British troop ship, the Laconia, killing more than 1,400 men. The commander of the German sub, Capt. Werner Hartenstein, realizing that Italians POWs were among the passengers, strove to aid in their ...read more

Situation deteriorates in South Vietnam

North Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dong tells the French Consul: “You must remember we will be in Saigon tomorrow.” In November, he would tell the Canadian Commissioner: “We will drive the Americans into the sea.” The U.S. Embassy in Saigon eventually passed these remarks along ...read more

Sugar Ray Robinson wins back belt

On September 12, 1951, former middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson defeats Randy Turpin to win back the belt in front of 61,370 spectators at the Polo Grounds in New York City. Robinson, a New York City native, had lost the belt to Turpin two months prior in Turpin’s native ...read more

Barry White is born

Born in Galveston, Texas, on this day in 1944, Barry White–or “the Maestro”–went on to stunningly successful career as a pop singer that spanned five decades, and made him a star of the disco era.Having written several new songs and recorded his vocals for demo purposes only, ...read more

Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning elope

On this day in 1846, Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browing.Barrett was already a respected poet who had published literary criticism and Greek translations in addition to poetry. Her first volume of poetry, The Seraphim and Other Poems, appeared in 1838, followed by ...read more

Hurricane Gilbert slams Jamaica

Hurricane Gilbert slams into Jamaica, killing hundreds of people, on this day in 1988. The storm went on to cause death and destruction in Mexico and spur a batch of tornadoes in Texas.On September 10, Gilbert attained hurricane status west of the Dominican Republic. ...read more

Tyco execs indicted

Three former executives from Tyco International, including the CEO and CFO, are indicted in New York on charges that they stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the company. Two of the men, CEO Dennis Kozlowski and CFO Mark Swartz, were later convicted and given lengthy ...read more