12 June 2011

"Tear down this wall!"

Today is the anniversary of the President Reagan's famous Tear down this wall! speech in West Berlin in front of the Brandenburg Gate. The complete text can be found here.

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!

2-1/2 years later, the wall was down.

If you're under 30, this doesn't mean much to you. If you walked along the wall in Berlin in the 60s, 70s, or 80s, though, it was the most stark, sharp reminder that the planet was divided into two camps, and you were at the edge of them.

By: Brant

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like to tell the story about how I was one of the last people to be refused entry into East Berlin.

It was October 7, 1989, not quite a month before the Wall actually came down. October 7 is East Germany's "Foundation Day", the commemoration of the date of the founding of the country in 1949. National holiday, with big parades and so forth in Berlin.

My friends and I took the elevated train from West Berlin - you get on in the West and travel non-stop to Friedrichstrasse, a station about half a mile inside East Berlin, and go through the border there. We got out and the station platform was full of border guards, many more than the time I had gone over the year before - there were even police dogs. A big beefy guard and two others came up to us - he shoved out his hand and demanded:
We handed them over. He looked at them.
"Ja, sie sind Amerikaner, ich bin Kanadisch." (I, the Canadian, was the only one who spoke German.)
He snapped them shut and poked them back at me.
"Keine Einreise!" (No entry!)
No point in arguing, so we stuck around for 15 minutes until the train went back to the West.

We found out later that no one was being allowed in from the West on that day, because Gorbachev (who was then the poster child for freedom and reform throughout the Warsaw Pact) was in town for the holiday, and big anti-government demonstrations were expected. This was reinforced by what had happened a few days before in Leipzig: the city police had refused to put down anti-government demonstrations, so factory militia had to be trucked in from outside the city to break them up. This was the first visible breakdown in the authority of the East German government.

As it turned out, the East Berliners had a nice holiday with no riots, I'm sure Gorbachev enjoyed himself, and we went to the open-air flea market.

A few days later, I left Berlin. And a few days after that, people began to travel through the Wall without hindrance. I had missed the Freight Train of History by a couple of weeks.

The End.