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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Egon Bahr, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


In the 1970s, Egon Bahr, a former journalist, was Secretary of the German Prime Minister’s Office (under Willy Brandt) and a federal government minister. From 1972-1990 he was an MP for the Social Democratic Party (SPD). In 1980, he became a member of the Independent Commission for Disarmament and Security. In the interview he discusses the development of West German policy and West German reactions to unfolding events during the Cold War, including the crises of 1948, 1953 and 1960. One of the major political issues of the period following Germany’s split after World War II was the possibility of reunification. He describes the development of events, after reunification was thought impossible, including the decision by the Federal Republic to join NATO and enter into agreements allowing U.S. troops and nuclear weapons onto German soil. These actions, Bahr notes, generated extraordinary debates within the country, at least until the events of 1956 in Hungary. Bahr also discusses the roles of several important German politicians, including Franz Josef Straus and Konrad Adenauer.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with Egon Bahr, 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

France and England rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons, NATO worries about the threat from the East, and Europe becomes the most nuclear-saturated place on Earth.

British and American scientists worked side by side to build the first nuclear bombs. “There was a strong desire on the British side for that collaboration to continue into peacetime. There was no such desire on the part of the United States,” recalls British diplomat Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield. Britain decided to proceed on its own and in 1952 joined the US and the Soviets in what pundits would call “the nuclear club.” General Charles De Gaulle, president of France, wanted to join the club, too, and not rely on the US for nuclear protection. Prestige was also an issue. In 1960, France exploded its first atomic weapon. Since World War II the Soviet Union had had a superiority in conventional forces in Europe. NATO countered by deploying thousands of nuclear weapons. “They were accepted as being perfectly reasonable weapons to use in a tactical battle in continental Europe,” said Sir Richard Powell of the British Defense Ministry.



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Raw video

Media Type


Clay, Lucius D. (Lucius DuBignon), 1897-1978
Czechoslovakia -- History -- Coup d’etat, 1948
International relations
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Berlin (Germany)--Riot, June, 1953
Adenauer, Konrad, 1876-1967
Berlin (Germany) -- History -- Blockade, 1948-1949
Nuclear weapons
Berlin (Germany)
United States
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
Hungary -- History -- Revolution, 1956
Soviet Union
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands (Germany : West)
Strauss, Franz Josef, 1915-1988
Deterrence (Strategy)
Berlin (Germany) -- History-- Crisis, 1961
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Bahr, Egon, 1922- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Egon Bahr, 1987,” 02/03/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Egon Bahr, 1987.” 02/03/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Egon Bahr, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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