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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Hans Apel, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Hans Apel was Defense Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany. In his interview he discusses German and European strategic policy, and their relations with the United States. On a number of occasions, he recounts, Germany felt poorly treated by the United States. One of these centered on the neutron bomb; another on the Euromissile debate; a third related to the Reagan administration’s harsh rhetorical stances. He describes the dual-track strategy of combining nuclear deployments with arms control negotiations – simultaneously modernizing European weapons to match advances in Soviet technology while continuing to negotiate, so that the weapons would never be used. He discusses the problems the Reagan Administration caused for Europe in the early 1980s. From all these experiences, he draws certain lessons about superpower behavior and specifically the U.S. pattern of making policy without taking adequate account of its allies’ interests. He also describes his party, the Social Democratic Party’s, political standing in Germany, which was affected by the dual-track decision, and he paints a picture of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, including his difficult relationship with Jimmy Carter.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Zero Hour
Program Number



Interview with Hans Apel, 1987

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

President Reagan and Soviet Secretary Gorbachev sign the INF Agreement to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons from Europe. No one had expected the European Missile Crisis to end this way.

The story begins in 1979, when the Western Allies were worried about the Soviet Union’s buildup of SS-20 nuclear missiles aimed at Western Europe. Under pressure from the Carter Administration, NATO issued a threat, if the SS-20s were not removed, NATO would install new American missiles in Europe. The threat revived the dormant anti-nuclear movement in Western Europe, giving them an anti-American tone. In 1981, President Reagan made a proposal that the US would cancel deployment of the missiles if the Soviet Union would dismantle all the intermediate range missiles it had pointed at Europe. This was the “zero-zero” option. The Soviet Union was entering a period of change with three leaders dying in three years. In 1986 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev offered to accept the “zero-zero” option and in 1987 the INF agreement was signed.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


SS-20 Missile
Neutron bomb
Nuclear weapons
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Poseidon missiles
Brzezinski, Zbigniew, 1928-
Antinuclear movement
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Cruise missiles
Grunen (Political party)
Reagan, Ronald
Nuclear arms control
Pershing (Missile)
Peace movements
International relations
United States. Navy
Soviet Union
Genscher, Hans Dietrich
Schmidt, Helmut, 1918 Dec. 23-
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Apel, Hans, 1932-2011 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Hans Apel, 1987,” 10/20/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Hans Apel, 1987.” 10/20/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Hans Apel, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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