Young people stuck flowers in remains of the Berlin Wall during a commemoration ceremony to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at the Wall memorial site at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin, Saturday. Photo: AP/Markus Schreiber
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Germany, allies mark 30 years since Berlin Wall fell

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By FRANK JORDANS

Germany marked the 30th anniversary Saturday of the opening of the Berlin Wall, a pivotal moment in the events that brought down Communism in eastern Europe.

Leaders from Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic attended a ceremony at Bernauer Strasse — where one of the last parts of the Berlin Wall remains — before placing roses in the once-fearsome barrier that divided the city for 28 years.

"The Berlin Wall, ladies and gentlemen, is history," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said later at a memorial service inside a small chapel near where the Wall once stood. "It teaches us: No wall that keeps people out and restricts freedom is so high or so wide that it can't be broken down."

Noting the cruelty of the East German regime — which had torn down a previous church on the former death strip site so snipers could get a better shot at people fleeing to the West — Merkel paid tribute to those who were killed or imprisoned during the Communist dictatorship and insisted that the fight for freedom worldwide isn't over.

"We are bereft of excuses, challenged to do our part for freedom and democracy," she said.

In a statement issued by his office, U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated Germany on its anniversary, saying that "courageous men and women from both East and West Germany united to tear down a wall that stood as a symbol of oppression and failed socialism for more than a quarter of a century."

"The United States and our allies and partners remain steadfast in our unwavering allegiance to advancing the principles of individual liberty and freedom that have sustained peace and spawned unparalleled prosperity," he added.

Speaking to European leaders at Bernauer Strasse, head of the Berlin Wall memorial site, Axel Klausmeier, recalled the images of delirious Berliners from East and West crying tears of joy as they hugged each other on the evening of Nov. 9, 1989 .

The collapse of the Berlin Wall was brought about largely by peaceful protests and a stream of people fleeing East Germany that piled pressure on the country's Communist government to open its borders to the West and ultimately end the nation's post-war division.

Thirty years on, Germany has become the most powerful economic and political force on the continent, but there remain deep misgivings among some in the country about how the transition from socialism to capitalism was managed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged this in a recent interview with daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, saying that "with some things, where one might have thought that East and West would have aligned, one can see today that it might rather take half a century or more."

She also recalled that Nov. 9 remains a fraught date in German history, as it also marks the anniversary of the so-called Night of Broken Glass, an anti-Jewish pogrom in 1938 that foreshadowed the Nazi's Holocaust.

Light installations, concerts and public debates were planned throughout the city and other parts of Germany to mark the fall of the Wall, including a concert at Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate.

Among those who had come to Berlin to celebrate were members of the Trabant Club Middle Hesse, an association that promotes the old East German car affectionately known as the Trabi.

Jens Schmidt, who fled East Germany before the fall of the Wall by driving his Trabi to Hungary and then across the open border to the West, said the club has many young members for whom learning to repair the simple but sturdy vehicles can be a lesson in history and civics, too.

"The team spirit," he said. "It was stronger back then."

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16 Comments

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This marks the 30th anniversary of liberal democratic values trumping conservative, authoritarian values.

-4 ( +11 / -15 )

30 years ago! jeeees, I remember as if it was yesterday, where does time go? its nice to see that time has changed things drematicly, oh, and those loverly highly polluting trabant cars, they were something like a 800 cc two stroke engine,

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I remember when The Berlin Wall was erected. It is difficult to believe that it has been gone for longer than it existed in the first place.

Walls do not keep people out any better than they keep people in. That lesson has yet to be learned despite the teaching of generations of accumulated experience.

Photo of the Berlin Wall made on Nov. 11, 1989

http://members.efn.org/~hkrieger/BB_Berlin.jpg

9 ( +9 / -0 )

As much to do with Mikhail Gorbachev and then the Soviet Union too which also fell 26 years ago.

Mikhail Gorbachev warned last week that the nuclear weapons owned by Russia and America is the most dangerous situation for the safety of the world.

There are still many walls between people for various reasons.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Can’t believe it’s been 30 years. During those depressive years it was never easy to get mail or to even send products to the former DDR. It was always for us in the west to know what life was like, we knew to an extent, but we had no idea how deep and brutal the Stasis were and what was even more interesting was once the Wall came down (and we were lucky, my uncle took a huge chunk and gave it to us to always remember and never forget) the government opened and allowed the public to read all the files that the Stasis kept on people. Some had a few, others had thick files on them.

You always had to be vigilant and careful what you said and the person you associated with you would be under their radar and you would never know how that would progress or end, neighbors were always encouraged to spy on each other, trust was a huge factor and although the wall is gone there is still an invisible wall of acceptance, tolerance and division between the former East and West. The East has been a magnet and epicenter for Nationalism and racism and the East is definitely not a foreign friendly place. A lot of former East Germans have had difficulties adjusting to the West and economically through the years to bring the East up back to West standard it has put a lot of burden and strain on the West, cultural and socially differences still persist. It’ll probably take another 40 years before the East and really assimilate fully into the West, as for giving up on its Nationalistic beliefs, that’s an entirely different story.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

vividly remember my optimism for our future, as a result of the events of 1989....... unfortunately, well, the phrase 'hell in a handbasket' slips readily to mind..... but still smiling.....

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This marks the 30th anniversary of liberal democratic values trumping conservative, authoritarian values.

What was conservative about the GDR? It was a revolutionary experiment in socialism that had never been seen before in Germany. Let's not distort history to suite a modern political agenda.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Now now boys and girls don't go celebrating too much. There is still a chasm between East & West Germany, and you can't blame communism any more. There is comparatively less social infrastructures now, especially in the East, and the rise in extreme right ideology coupled with terrorism is not something to celebrate.

I personally wouldn't want to be too complacent, especially with Germany's history and tenuous hold on stability. It could turn on a dime.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

A very one-sided article imo i.e. 'West/capitalism - good vs East & socialism/communism - bad' (as per Trump's quote). Don't think it was that simple tbh.

Many West German students & middle class had opposed their govts' economic liberalization policies in the 70s & 80s and were very much anti 'establishment/govt' (RAF and other similar groups had millions of sympathizers all across europe). Not saying that a majority of west germans/euros were full-blown communists or envied eastern euros but many were dissatisfied with the way things were going in their country and -rightly or wrongly- believed that 'another' world was possible i.e. left-leaning and/or libertarian rather than capitalist. That's why many western euros had a perhaps bizarre affection for brabant - Lada cars, east euro fashion/symbols or football clubs (i personally loved playing the likes of carl zess jena, dynamo dresden/berlin etc in euro cups in the 80s). Many west germans/euros hated wild-West capitalism & the 'flashy 80s'.

Personally, I always saw the fall of the Berlin wall as a 'let's unite/fight together' moment rather than the triumph of the West/capitalism over the East/communism.

As an aside, it would have been good to read/listen to what the old bloke in the last pic has to say or ask Jens Schmidt to extrapolate on "The team spirit," he said. "It was stronger back then."

the so-called Night of Broken Glass

aka Kristallnacht. no need to anglicise/translate everything.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

What was conservative about the GDR? 

I definitely don’t see the GDR system as being anything but another variation of Stalinism, an extension of the system Stalin established in the Soviet Union, akin to the one he established in North Korea, like the one Mao modified to use in China. The system was authoritarian, totalitarian.

That 30 years on there are global leaders pushing to undermine democracies and return to authoritarianism is worrying. Though the global far right movements sometimes use the term ‘conservative’ to describe their beliefs, what they’re pushing is actually just another form of the systems like Stalin forced on eastern Europe and other places, like Italy and Germany had in the 1930s. To me those systems weren’t left or right, liberal or conservative, they were just anti-democratic authoritarianism.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

The best thing about Lada cars was you didn't need to worry about whether they would break down. They were always broken.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What was conservative about the GDR?

If we define "conservative" as an unwillingness to change, then it is probably fair to describe the governments of the GDR and the Soviet Union as conservative in the latter years of their existence. It doesn't take long to move from radical to conservative once you have power. (Time to read Animal Farm again.)

6 ( +6 / -0 )

If we define "conservative" as an unwillingness to change, then it is probably fair to describe the governments of the GDR and the Soviet Union as conservative in the latter years of their existence. It doesn't take long to move from radical to conservative once you have power. (Time to read Animal Farm again.)

It's always nice when people understand that words have more than one meaning.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Chip Star:

This marks the 30th anniversary of liberal democratic values trumping conservative, authoritarian values.

Actually, it marks the 30th anniversary of the collapse of an undemocratic, authoritarian, imperial, warmongering system and the reconstruction of a nation state.

Which is exactly what today's globalists want to reverse in their ambition to destroy nation states and create globalist empires like the EU.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Which is exactly what today's globalists want to reverse in their ambition to destroy nation states and create globalist empires like the EU.

People throw around the word globalist like it was fish and chips. The EU isn't a globalist empire since it's restricted to 28 European countries.

So maybe you could explain what you mean by globalist.

For example, during the election and presidency of United States president Donald Trump and members of his administration used the term globalist on multiple occasions. The administration was accused of using the term as an anti-Semitic "dog whistle", to associate their critics with a Jewish conspiracy.

Is your own country part of the globalist conspiracy?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Which is exactly what today's globalists want to reverse in their ambition to destroy nation states and create globalist empires like the EU.

What exactly is a globalist?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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