60th Anniversary of the Accession of Germany to NATO
On 3 June 2015, the NATO Archives celebrated the 60th anniversary of Germany’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with an exhibition at NATO HQ that showcased a unique collection of archival documents, photos and film footage related to the historic event. All of this material, most of which has never been displayed to the public, was selected and arranged to present a unique visual record of how the Alliance came together in 1955 for a spectacular display of unity to formally welcome their 15th member.
The exhibition was opened by Assistant Secretary General for Executive Management Wayne J Bush who, in his role as Chairman of the Archives Committee, led with an introduction that symbolically framed Germany’s accession to NATO as a renewed vision of Euro-Atlantic security amidst the backdrop of the Cold War. He then invited Ambassador Martin Erdmann, the Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to NATO, to the podium to say a few words about the occasion from a German perspective.
Ambassador Erdmann delivered a stirring speech that left a lasting impression on the gathered crowd, skillfully guiding a rapt audience on a fascinating journey through Germany’s past that made specific reference to historical events of the last century to contextualize the moment that was now being celebrated. “To this day,” he said, “we are deeply grateful for the considerable confidence that was placed in us back in 1955.”
To wrap up his remarks, Ambassador Erdmann brought distant and recent history together by drawing a direct link about the ultimate effect of NATO membership for his country: “Germany’s accession to NATO in 1955 was not only a defence policy decision,” he explained, “it is part of our raison d’état, and was the foundation on which Germany could be reunited.”
For display in the exhibition, the NATO Archives drew from its vaults the original protocol of accession for Germany, signed by NATO Foreign Ministers in 1954. The Office of Treaty Affairs at the U.S. Department of State generously provided a pristine facsimile of the original instrument of accession by Germany to the North Atlantic Treaty, signed by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. These formal documents were illuminated by a large selection of photos originally taken during the invitation and accession ceremonies for Germany at the NATO Ministerial Meetings in October 1954 and May 1955.
The official speeches of welcome made by all 14 NATO Foreign Ministers at the May 1955 Ministerial Meeting, along with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s response, were also reproduced for the exhibition’s accompanying book. A special limited hardcover edition of the exhibition book was presented to Ambassador Erdmann at the opening reception, who graciously accepted with a reminder that he too was “a product of 1955”. A second hardcover book is set to accompany the NATO Secretary General on his trip to Berlin on 30 June, where he will be in attendance for Germany’s own celebration of the anniversary accession to NATO that will be held in the Foreign Office.