It is hard to believe it has been 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall …
Nov. 9, 1989, 25 years later and it seems like yesterday I can remember watching the news of the German people hammering, chiseling and tearing down the Berlin Wall, symbolizing the freedom of the East German people and the defeat of Communism. Thousands of East Berliners poured into West Berlin and freedom. It was a moment in history that you remember where you were when you saw the images of the fall of Communism and the rise of freedom. It is a forever remembered moment in history for the world, not just Germany. The people celebrated in the streets, as Germans shed their hammers and sickles for hammers and chisels and brought the wall down forever.
White balloons spanning a stretch of the former death strip floated over hundreds of thousands of revelers in the German capital on Sunday, culminating a day of celebrations to mark 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
More than 300,000 people gathered in Berlin to watch a light installation of 8,000 helium balloons tracing a nine-mile stretch be released into the night sky, police said. The illuminated balloons snaked past historic locations such as Checkpoint Charlie as part of a celebration that included music and fireworks at the city’s Brandenburg Gate—a location once circumvented by the wall.
Speaking earlier in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the fall of the Berlin Wall proof that dreams could come true during a ceremony to mark the event’s 25th anniversary. She added that its collapse offered hope to regions where “freedom and human rights are threatened or even trampled on.”
For days, celebrations throughout Germany have been commemorating the opening of the East German border on Nov. 9, 1989. The breaching of the border heralded the collapse of the Communist system and led to German reunification less than a year later.
The Iconic Photo of the Fall of the Berlin Wall
National Geographic on the Berlin Wall, pretty good documentary.
This year’s commemoration of the fall of the Iron Curtain may also feel more poignant because there is a palpable sense that peace in Europe in 2014 is more fragile than it was at the 20th anniversary in 2009.
In her speech at the wall memorial on Bernauer Strasse on Saturday afternoon, Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, had explicitly emphasized the geopolitical resonances of the event, instead of indulging in personal reminiscences.
“We have the strength to shape things, to turn things from bad to good, that is the message of the fall of the wall,” she said. “These days, that message is directed at Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and many, many other regions in the world.”
Let us never forget what real leadership looks like. Where US President Ronald Wilson Reagan not only went to Berlin, Germany on June 12, 1987 and gave his famous speech when he uttered those famous words that would eventually come true … “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall,” but also helped bring about the fall of Communism. Wow, imagine that, a president with a spine and resolve to effectuate real change that brought liberty to millions, not one apologizing for America’s actions. A president that looked to unify people, not divide them. A president that looked to end Communism, not partake in it. God bless Ronald Reagan. These days we can only say, what a novel concept.
Chancellor Kohl, Governing Mayor Diepgen, ladies and gentlemen: Twenty-four years ago, President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin, speaking to the people of this city and the world at the City Hall. Well, since then two other presidents have come, each in his turn, to Berlin. And today I, myself, make my second visit to your city.
We come to Berlin, we American presidents, because it’s our duty to speak, in this place, of freedom. But I must confess, we’re drawn here by other things as well: by the feeling of history in this city, more than 500 years older than our own nation; by the beauty of the Grunewald and the Tiergarten; most of all, by your courage and determination. Perhaps the composer Paul Lincke understood something about American presidents. You see, like so many presidents before me, I come here today because wherever I go, whatever I do: Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin. [I still have a suitcase in Berlin.]
In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: “We will bury you.” But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind–too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.
And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.
Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!