Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday 9 November 2009

The destruction of the Berlin Wall twenty years on

Twenty years ago today the Berlin Wall was opened and East and West Berliners could mingle with each other freely for the first time in very many years. Although most people in the capital of the now-defunct East Germany welcomed the new freedom it gave them, not everyone there was so sanguine, as the linked article mentions; whether that nostalgia for a failed systen is simply viewing history through rose-tinted spectacles is perhaps not for me to judge (although I do think it completely idiotic). Undoubtedly, though, many former East Germans have suffered economic hardship, even with the support provided by the newly-unified Federal Republic, but I surmise that the greatest damage remains pyschological - however bad the old Communist regime was, it provided a framework (or a prison) for life and there was certainty of a kind; I accept that the self-esteem of many people there took a severe hit in the aftermath of the disappearance of a State many of them will have been born into. All that, and secure (if badly-paid) employment, disappeared. However I confess I cannot work up much sympathy for the man in the linked story whose firm was acquired by a West German company which asked him to move 120 Km - he preferred to lose his job; well tough, that's life, get used to it! If Angela Merkel (a former East German citizen, too) had adopted that attitude she certainly wouldn't be Chancellor of Germany today. The initial doubts that many East Germans expressed about the possibility of re-uniting the two parts of the country soon evapaorated, and their desire to retain a 'socialist' system (which is what they had been brought up to consider as the norm) soon disappeared, when they became accustomed to the practical benefits which their new political freedoms allowed them to aspire to .

I don't imagine that even President Reagan could have imagined that his 1987 speech in West Berlin, against the backdrop of the Brandenburg Gate, could have brought about the end of the discredited East German puppet regime so rapidly and that it would be followed only a couple of years later by the break-up of the Soviet Union itself:

US President Ronald Reagan:
"Mr Gorbachev. Tear down this wall!"

- Helmut Kohl, West German Chancellor at the time, beams and claps in approval.

Naturally a lot of people have been drawn to Berlin in the days, weeks, months and years since those heady days 20 years ago (I was in Dubai/Abu Dhabi at the time - I travelled frequently between the two and lived in both then, but have not been to Berlin so far), and apart from Berliners there were obviously a lot of others there at the time I suppose and not just foreign journalists, but it seems that [now President] Nicolas Sarkozy wasn't amongst their number for the 'big event' as his 'Facebook' entry apparently said he had been, although he may well have been there a day or two later; no doubt the memory plays tricks [ahem!] after so many years.

During the roughly 28 years of the wall's existence most people were trying to get out of East Germany, but just a very few were headed in the other direction, including this British person [and Communist 'fellow-traveller']. Having joined the British Communnist Party on his 18th birthday in 1948 and working as a Party organiser for 18 years, he moved to East Germany in 1976, where he acted as a Stasi (secret police) informer on British citizens there. John Tarver, who is now 79, says he regrets supporting Communism with such zeal [and I suppose it is good that he has learned this lesson at long last], but his explanation that as a person brought up in the Catholic faith he needed "a strong belief system" is a poor kind of excuse. Apparently he has now gone back to his Catholic roots. Good luck to him and I hope he lives out his days peacefully; it is just a pity that his personal 'crisis of faith' caused him to live his life so despicably for so many years by making life unbearable for those whom he chose to inform on. But that is 'socialists' for you, full of excuses and self-justification for their outrageous behaviour! If anyone is offended by my blanket categorisation of all 'socialists' and 'socialism' as odious, I really don't care - they can get lost(!), so far as I am concerned.

To end this article on a more cordial note, I look back on today twenty years ago as a very positive development, not just for Germany, but for the whole of Europe.

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