9 November is an eventful and moving day in German history. The revolution of 1918, the Night of the Pogrom in 1938, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 – all of these dramatic and fateful events took place on this day. At the same time, all of them had international and European dimensions.
To honour the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago, an event of significance beyond Germany’s borders, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas invited international and European guests to Berlin today. Delegations from around 25 European countries, as well as the former allied powers the United States and Russia will attend. Most countries will be represented by their Foreign Ministers.
From the Baltic via Hungary to Berlin
The reception ahead of the celebrations commemorating the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate was the final act in a whole series of trips and events, the focal point of which was the part played by other European countries and the allied powers of the Second World War in the ending of Germany’s division.
For instance, this week Foreign Minister Maas visited the Hungarian capital Budapest to honour the crucial significance of the opening of the border between Hungary and Austria on 10/11 September to the fall of the Iron Curtain as a whole.
Also this week, Maas met Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu in Berlin. The peoples of the Baltic states sent an impressive signal about the end of the division of Europe by forming a 600-kilometre-long human chain on 23 August 1989.
Maas honours the part played by Europeans and the Allies in the fall of the Berlin Wall
Finally, on Thursday the Foreign Minister, together with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo, visited the border town of Mödlareuth, which was divided during the Cold War, and the sites of the Peaceful Revolution in Leipzig. Here, Foreign Minister Maas emphasied “America’s leadership”, without which “there would have been no reunification”.
We Germans know whom we have to thank for this good fortune: namely the hundreds of thousands of East Germans who took to the streets to protest for freedom. We also owe this to the Gdansk shipyard workers, the singing revolutionaries in the Baltic countries, the Hungarians who were the first to cut through the Iron Curtain, the pioneers of the Charter 77 in Prague, those who took part in the Candle Demonstrations in Bratislava, the revolutionaries of Timișoara – all the women and men whose desire for freedom swept away walls and barbed wire. And we have our friends and Alliance partners in the West, as well as Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost and perestroika, to thank for this, paving the way to reunification. (Foreign Minister Heiko Maas)
Mistake which led to freedom
In the night from 9 to 10 November 1989, the sweeping changes in Eastern Europe and the pressure created by East Germans protesting for freedom and democracy led to the opening of the border crossing points at the Berlin Wall. Prior to that, the Politburo and Central Committee of the SED had decided to ease the tough travel regulations which, however, was supposed to be announced the following day.
The premature announcement of the easing of the regulations by Central Committee member Günter Schabowski on the evening of 9 November, which he said would come into effect “immediately, without delay”, led to an unexpected wave of people heading to the border crossing points from East to West Berlin and ultimately to them being opened. The Iron Curtain had fallen.
“Where were you when the Berlin Wall came down?” Article by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the tasks which this brought for Europe.