The fall of the Wall, a step ” “to build united Europe

The events of Berlin 25 years ago have been a "revolutionary" point of arrival and a milestone for the new Continent

Twenty-five years ago, on 9 November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, allowing thousands of citizens of the German Democratic Republic to finally enjoy, with the entry into the Federal Republic of Germany, the freedom that they had been forced to give up for decades. The event, celebrated in recent days, was not the result of a political negotiation. It was the success of a revolution that broke out at grassroots level. The communist regime had had to yield under the pressure of mass demonstrations, promoted by people of all social classes, unhappy with the living conditions in East Germany and in particular with the limitation of their freedom and of their civil rights. The commitment of human rights activists, who on many occasions could count on the Churches’ protection, had already come to the fore; encouraged by the new Soviet politics under Gorbachev, protesters dissipated the fears of act of repression carried out by the police and military forces. From the onset, activists were interested in democracy. To the cry “we are the people” they challenged the political leaders that spoke and took decisions on behalf of the population. Upon the commemoration of the fall of the Wall, that gained major media coverage in Germany, it was justly underlined that that was not a purely national event, but rather a European one. First of all, in an initially symbolical manner – promptly followed by real action – it paved the way to the possibility of overcoming the division of Europe and of the rest of the world in two separate economic and social systems at war against one another. This event encompassed Europe’s reunification prospect, which was to take shape in the following years. Since the summer of that incredible 1989 there had been continuous movement of East Germans trying to enter as tourists in the West through Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Thousands succeeded with the consent of the governments of these countries, which were still communist at the time, but which unlike the East German government had recognized the “signs of the times”. Confident that Gorbachev would tolerate the breaking of the repressive policy hitherto pursued in the Eastern bloc, they foreshadowed – against the fierce resistance of the reactionary governments of East Berlin, Bucharest and Sofia – historical events and made their own history. The fall of the Berlin Wall was also a European event in that a number of groundbreaking initiatives for freedom from the yoke of communist dictatorships had already occurred in several countries of Central Europe: without these, the revolt of the citizens of East Germany could not be imagined. In the collective memory the Europeans riots in Budapest (Hungary 1956) and Prague (Czechoslovakia, 1968), in particular, are important steps on the path of liberation; the effective struggle of Solidarnosc in Poland (since 1980) was another encouraging example. It was a stroke of luck that the uprising against the regime of East Germany did not escalate into acts of violence. However, the people who were demonstrating for their freedom and rights did not know it and ran a great risk. The authorities could no longer count on the support of the Soviet Union and therefore they did not have the courage to use the army to defend the regime. A breach had been made, but democracy and the rule of law in East Germany had not yet been achieved. The GDR still existed. The pro-civil rights movement focused only on the dismantling of the repressive apparatus of the State Security (Stasi). Now it was necessary to prepare free elections and the establishment of democratic and civil society structures. The Socialist Unity Party, which had ruled the country for 40 years with means of oppression and had wrecked it morally, politically and economically, was disavowed. With the new name of Party of Democratic Socialism and the announcement of reforms, their leaders finally tried to rescue the Democratic Republic as an independent State. It was in vain. The thrust of the revolution and an intelligent politics carried out a already few months after the fall of the Wall by new democratically elected political leaders, men and women most of whom had been recruited from the winning civil movement, led to the reunification of Germany one year later, October 3rd 1990. It was a decisive step towards Europe’s reunification.

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