The American President has advocated the approach that we should generate as much trade as possible with the Eastern bloc countries without endangering our security. If one applies this approach to Germany, an unusually wide field opens up. It would be good, at the outset, if we could define this field according to our capacities and limits. I think they exceed all known estimates. If it is correct that intensifying East-West trade (with the qualification mentioned above) lies in the West's interest, and I believe it is correct, then it is also determinately in Germany's interest. We do not have to be so persnickety, to use that well-known Cologne expression for a familiar attitude. The goal of a policy like this, of course, cannot be to blackmail the Zone, for no Communist regime, and certainly not one as endangered as the one in the Zone, can let its character be changed by economic relations. But, after all, not even the Americans made this demand when they gave loans to Poland, and this is also not the meaning of the American wish for intensified trade with the East. Our concern right now is the people, and the exhaustion of every conceivable and responsible attempt to ease their situation. Material improvement would have to have a relaxing effect in the Zone. [ . . . ]
We have also said that the Wall is a sign of weakness. One might also say that it was a sign of the Communist regime's anxiety and urge for self-preservation. The question is whether there might be opportunities to gradually move these thoroughly justifiable concerns far enough away from the regime that loosening the borders and the Wall becomes feasible, because the risk is tolerable. This is a policy that can be summarzied by the formula: change through rapprochement.
I am firmly convinced that we have enough self-confidence to pursue a policy like this without illusions, a policy, moreover, that fits seamlessly into the Western concept of the strategy for peace, for otherwise we will have to wait for miracles, and that is no policy at all.
Source: Egon Bahr, "Wandel durch Annäherung" ["Change through Rapprochement"], speech delivered on July 15, 1963, at the Evangelical Academy in Tutzing; original German text reprinted in Bernhard Pollmann, ed., Lesebuch zur deutschen Geschichte [German History Reader], vol. 3, Vom deutschen Reich bis zur Gegenwart [From the German Reich to the Present]. Dortmund, 1984, pp. 247-49.
Translation: Jeremiah Riemer