November 09, 2009

Horse 1048 - When the Wall Came Down

The 9th of November 1989 will live long in people's memory as it was primarily a day of decreased geography, and when two countries once again became one.

The events of that cold day in Berlin meant little to me as an 11 year old. I was far away and safe on the other side of a television set, but I imagine that the effects of that day would be immensely changing for the people that lived there.

People of Berlin in some cases had been separated from even members of their own family since 1961, and that morning and day as people moved again between two halves of a previously divided city, would have been very strange. The U-Bahn and S-Bahn underground trains that would have previously passed through so called "phantom" stations, where the railway lines passed underground into another country and then back out again, now stopped at these stations for the first time in 28 years.

The wall itself was a physical symbol of the "iron curtain" which had descended across the Continent from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic.

The then Conservative PM Margaret Thatcher said:
"We do not want a united Germany. This would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security."
Admittedly President Mitterrand of France warned Margaret Thatcher privately that a reunited Germany might “make even more ground than Hitler had” only a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall, newly declassified documents reveal. So it certainly seems that the prospect of a reunited Germany scared Western Europe.

It is a credit to the German people though that the reunification process went reasonably smoothly. The expected drag on West Germany's economy never really happened, because the work ethic of Prussia which was firmly in the East, put paid to that.

If anything, one Germany I think has showed the world that it is possible to peacefully acheive something great. The people of Ireland, Palestine and Korea aught to take note of this, because there is far more joy in breaking down barriers than erecting them.

9th November was also the date of Der Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) which in 1938 saw about 500 Jews murdered and a further 25,000-30,000 placed into concentration camps to eventually be murdered. I bet that the GDR Politbüro
were keen to have that story of history quietly pasted over.

No comments: