Next week is the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. We say fall, but that really should read “the tearing down of the Berlin Wall,” which was one of the first concrete memories I have of watching CNN was the coverage of thousands of Berliners — Ossis and Wessis gathered on either side of the Brandenburg Gate, chanting and and partying, and some very nervous and confused looking soldiers dotted about here and there. Then, in a moment that could never be so well choreographed as what actually happened, a young man jumped on top of the scarred concrete structure and with all of his might struck it with a blow that did more to symbolically destroy the wall than his force of effort ever could. Within minutes, the first section of one of the world’s most notorious postwar scars was forced to the ground and the German people were one once again.
1989 was the pivotal year for the will of the people overcoming the power of governments. It all began with an election in Poland; then on June 11th when Ronald Reagan delivered his famous speech at that very spot demanding that “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall.” And then Poland, Romania, Riots in Germany, the fall of the DDR, and eventually the end of the Soviet Union and the democratization of Europe.
We tend to forget recent history, and in America, anything 20th Century tends to be fixated on the Great Depression, WWII, or JFK
But we should not ignore the fact that 20 years ago, 6 months changed the world.
Consider the timeline:
- June 4 — Solidarity overwhelmingly defeat Communists in Poland.
- June 12 — Reagan’s Speech in Berlin
- August — Tens of Thousands of East Germans inundate West German embassies in Soviet Bloc countries seeking Asylum (granted)
- August 24 — Poland’s Election certified. First non-communist government in the Soviet Bloc takes power
- September 11 — Hungary Opens its borders. East Germans flood into the West.
- November 4 — over a million East Germans Protest
- November 7-8-9 — DDR’s Politburo Resign, Berlin Wall Destroyed, Borders Opened.
- November 10 — Bulgaria’s Communist Dictator removed from Power
- November 17 — Velvet Revolution begins in Prague
- November 25 — Hungary Votes to End Communism
- December 17 — Romanians take to the street, attack government
- December 25 — Brutal Romanian Dictator Ceausescu shot by firing squad
- December 29 — Czechoslovakia votes in democratic government ending Communism.
Mr. Gorbachev held the tanks while the world tore down that wall…