Thus fell the Wall ” “meant to be eternal

The "miracle" of Germany's unification represents the accomplishment of a political process and a breakthrough in European and global history

The fact that the fall of the Berlin Wall – one of the events that changed the history of the world – took place 25 years ago, November 9, 1989, without casualties, is still a source of wonder. The reason might be that the revolution developed spontaneously within popular consciousness, in Protestant parishes scarcely tolerated by the regime, in associations for the defence of human rights; and the quiet, peaceful, mass demonstrations are cherished in our memory. It took shape during the summer and broke out in September, with the opening of the Hungarian border with Austria, through which one hundred thousand people from East Germany had fled, while evening prayers for peace blossomed across major cities. On the 7th of October ten thousand people protesting against the national celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the founding of the German Democratic Republic were arrested. Signs placed on motorway service stations read, “Go and protest. We will follow you”. In Dresden, the State Opera and Ballet Theatre was celebrating the anniversary with “Fidelio” (a symbol of freedom of conscience) by Ludwig van Beethoven, staged behind a curtain of barbed wire. In Leipzig 70 thousand people gathered, bringing into a crisis, with their non-violent behaviour, the repressive apparatus. History tells us that the communist leadership was starting to be afraid. Their end arrived in one month. In Berlin, after 28 years and 87 days, the “bulwark of socialism” erected August 13, 1961, that just a month earlier, the last dictator, Erich Honecker, had declared “eternal”, finally collapsed. That night triggered the reunification of Germany that was concluded three hundred days later with the signing of the thousand-page Treaty on August 31, 1990. It was a sequence of events in the name of peace, dialogue, negotiation, that took place thanks to Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who clung to Article 23 of the Fundamental Law, which stipulated that one single vote of the People’s Chamber of East Germany was sufficient to join the Federal Republic. The Kohl-Genscher duo disrupted a system that tended to decide the fate of the Germans without them. An upset Margaret Thatcher cried out without cautions at a summit of the European Community in December 1989. “We have beaten the Germans twice, and here they return”. Only few wanted a united Germany, despite the auspices of a reunification repeated for decades by the Western Allies, which in reality was deemed impossible. At first it was a struggle against the victorious powers, against the majority of UN members, worsened by the perplexities of EEC and NATO. French President François Mitterrand agreed with the British Prime Minister and with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that the unification was inadmissible. Only the US president, George Bush Sr, admitted that it was a possible scenario, provided that Germany guaranteed its presence within the Atlantic Alliance. With determination Kohl managed to impose the idea that the negotiations should not be conducted by the former winners plus the two Germanys, but by the two Germanys with the occupying forces, thereby winning over all doubts. Crowds of East Germans rallied in the streets shouting: “We are one people”; the US decided that the “Wiedervereinigung” project had to be supported and managed to persuade the British, reluctant till the very end, while the French were not able to object. The Russians, in dire need of money, surrendered to fifty billion Marks. So Gorbachev, in his pragmatism, during a meeting with Bush in Washington admitted that the Germans had the right to decide their own destiny. The document that stated that the occupation was over and the new Germany was born was signed in Moscow on September 12, 1990. Naturally, not all problems have been solved. The “walls of the spirit” haven’t all been demolished. Although it has waned since the early years, in East Germany the feeling of having once been a territory to be conquered lingers on. It will take a couple of generations, according to historian, philosopher Titus Schabert, for the amalgam to be perfect. But there are signs. One of these signs is the great affection of the people of a largely de-Christianized country for the Lutheran “Frauenkirche” in Dresden, the Church of Our Lady destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945 and left as it was by the communist regime. It was completely rebuilt with the contribution of the population, thanks to generous donations and ten Euro offerings that came in from all over Germany, by Protestants and Catholics alike, with contributions even by the Allied pilots who had razed the city to the ground. It is a result of the post-Wall, at the same time a symbol of the reunification, of ecumenism, and of peace among peoples.

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