Americans, Germans Remember Fall of Berlin Wall as Turning Point

There’s a new statue of Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. president, on a terrace of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, a stone’s throw from the iconic Brandenburg Gate.It is a long time coming, for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and other supporters of the project. They had been pressing Berlin city officials for years to erect a statue in a public place, but Berlin officials demurred, noting that many factors and people contributed to the fall of the Wall on Nov. 9, 1989.The Reagan supporters finally settled for a statue on the grounds of the embassy — American soil in the heart of Berlin.U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the unveiling Friday, calling it a “monumental moment” as the artwork appeared. The statue memorializes Reagan’s 1987 speech in which he exhorted then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”Two years later, the Wall began to come down on live television. After a surprise announcement by an East German official that Easterners would be allowed to travel to the West, effective immediately, Berliners took hammers to the concrete barrier and started dismantling it themselves.WATCH: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 30 Years On
The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 30 Years On video player.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives with a rose at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 9, 2019.Child of former East GermanyGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel, herself a child of the former East Germany, says Ossies are the real heroes behind the fall of the Wall. Peaceful protests began in September 1989 in the East German university town of Leipzig and spread to other eastern cities, culminating in the November decision to open the Wall in Berlin.“The peaceful revolution and November 9, 1989, was the work of the citizens of the GDR,” Merkel told the magazine Der Spiegel this week. “We are happy to share it, including the joy, but it was done by the citizens of the GDR with a huge amount of courage.”This is perhaps why Berlin officials resisted the Reagan statue. To Germans, this was not Reagan’s win. It was Germany’s.Matthias Stausberg, who grew up in the West German town of Betzdorf, was living in Berlin in 1999 when the city celebrated the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. He describes coming home from work to find his roommate watching archival footage on television.“As I walked into the room,” Stausberg says, “he turned to me, tears running down his cheeks, saying ‘This was really our finest hour.’ And it was.”Now based in London, Stausberg is well-versed in the discussions about how and why the Wall fell and why the Wall remains, invisibly, in German culture.But, he says, “All of that doesn’t take away from the beauty of the moment itself. When do these profound political transformations ever play out peacefully? Those days beginning in the evening of November 9th were days of unparalleled joy. The world was watching Germany, and for once, it was good news.”

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