A day that changed the world as we knew it
This 9th of November 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Just as the epochal event itself a generation ago, this important anniversary holds significance beyond the confines of Germany and the European continent. In the present climate of resurfacing tensions, political brinkmanship, and a growing disregard of multilateral institutions set up to ensure a peaceful, stable and rule-based world order, we are reminded that the cry for freedom in communist East Germany could prevail because the West had stuck together and to its principles through forty years of Cold War and not given in to Soviet lures or pressures. And that, in 1989, Leipzig or East Berlin did not become a second Tiananmen Square, because the powers ultimately in charge of the situation had enough sense of responsibility not to risk an escalation with unforeseeable consequences far beyond Germany.
For those of us Germans who are old enough to remember all of this, the fall of the Wall will always remain one of the most formative political events we witnessed, leaving a deep emotional mark. Many of us had become unsure whether we would see this happening in our own lifetime. The fast-paced chain of events that brought down communist rule in East Germany took us completely by surprise, just like the rest of the world.
When we remember this event 30 years on, we first and foremost honor those courageous men and women who took to the streets in non-violent protests to demand their long-withheld basic civil liberties, shouting “We are the people!.” They did not know how the armed forces sent to break up their marches would react. And the memory of what had happened in Beijing just a few months earlier was fresh on everybody’s mind. In the end, the tanks stayed in their bases, and no live shot was fired. The sequence of events that forced the regime to give in and open its borders has been rightfully described as a peaceful revolution, and also as the only successful one in German history.
“We are the people” soon morphed into “We are one people!”, and German reunification would follow in less than a year.
Happy anniversary – let Freedom ring!