The events to mark the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall began with concerts from German singers and bands. The theme for this year’s commemoration was “Mut zur Freiheit” which translates to mean “Courage to Freedom.” Across the stage you can also see the white balloons that marked the location along the divide between East and West Berlin. Behind the screen you can just make out the Brandenburg Gate, where on November 9, 1989 history was made and a city reunited after 28 years of division.
When Winston Churchill famously announced in March of 1946 that an “Iron curtain has descended across the continent” he could have hardly realized how prophetic his words would be 15 years later. For those caught in the East of Berlin and under the Soviet Union’s Control, such a warning would have been welcomed if only it had been understood. No one could have imagined then nor did they even image on August 14, 1961 when the Brandenburg Gate was sealed close that an actual wall would one day separate them from family and friends.
It was with the same surprise that the wall came down on November 9, 1989 as then Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev was leading his nation in a movement called “glasnost” meaning openness and the political policy of “perestroika” which was a reformation movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. When Berliners heard that the restrictions for crossing the border were being lifted, members from the West fled to the wall and began dismantling it with small hammers, pick axes, and other tools.
Time has a way of healing old wounds and so the once divided city has spent the last 25 years healing itself. This process has been expensive and at times, the progress slow. There are still many building projects in the works in both East and West Berlin. Considering that over 70% of the city of Berlin was destroyed in World War II, there was much work to be done.
Gathered at the Brandenburg gate and along the route where a wall once stood between the East and West Berlin, Germans and other nationalities gathered to celebrate the reunification of a proud city that has survived over 750 years. Germans are said to feel pride in very little of their history given the results of World War I and II, but they all felt pride in the Fall of the Wall.
Over half a million people were estimated to have filled the streets, sidewalks, and avenues around the city. There was joy, there was reminiscing, and there was hope for a brighter future. The only moment that tainted the night were the words of Gorbachev as he warned that the world was dangerously close to another Cold War. However, on this night, the only cold war was one fought with blankets, scarves, hot coffee, and the combined exuberance of hundreds of thousands pressed together to mark a monumental moment in history.