Monday, November 09, 2009

Berlin, Berlin

Back in 1983, when I was at university, I was in a musical called BERLIN, BERLIN. It traced the cultural history of Berlin through the ages. Being part of it was a great experience. To be honest, my part was so small, that I have forgotten what it was, although I do remember that I didn't have too many lines (as I can't learn them - in case you hadn't noticed!) and didn't have to sing much. The audience was very grateful for that small mercy.

Despite living in Germany for two years in the 1980s I never actually visited Berlin, which is a big regret. And I haven't been there since. I hope to rectfiy that soon, for Berlin symbolises so much that is good and bad about recent European history.

Those of us of a certain vintage will remember watching the live pictures of the wall coming down twenty years ago today - when thousands of East Berliners demonstrated that the human spirit will always triumph over the forces of darkness. It was a hugely emotional evening. To see people flooding through Checkpoint Charlie to see what life was like in the West was unforgettable. I had just got Sky TV and watched the whole thing live on German TV. I remember thinking that the reunification of Germany would now be inevitable as it was clear the Russians would not intervene to save the East German regime.

I just saw this comment from David Cameron, which I think sums things up very well...
Two decades on, the fall of the Berlin Wall carries some powerful lessons which made a deep impression on me at the time, and which are every bit as valid today as they were then. The universal yearning for freedom in the face of oppression. The fact that political leadership really can make a difference - in leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who stood up to Communist tyranny during the Cold War, to Mikhail Gorbachev who ushered in glasnost and perestroika, to Chancellor Kohl, who led his country so skilfully to unification.

The most important lesson of 1989, however, was the power of the human spirit, whatever the odds. Ultimately, it was the decisions of thousands of brave individuals who refused to put up with oppression which brought an end to Communist dictatorship in Central and Eastern Europe. It is to their courage and their determination that we pay tribute today - not least as we remember all those who still struggle for their freedom and their rights in so many parts of the world.
Well said.


Furor Teutonicus said...

Incapability Brown needs to take note, and take note VERY carefully.

He should NEVER forget how his hero, and the inspiration for the way he runs Britain today, ended.

Von Brandenburg/Berlin.

Norton Folgate said...

The wall came down and everything that was wrong with East germany has migrated and now is alive and well in this country.

Curbishlyauto said...

I remember the wall being built, the lives lost and the horror that a totalitarian country like the Soviet Union could be so evil.
That night when they pulled it down I cried tears of deep joy.

Martin said...

This is the same Margaret Thatcher who said to Gorbachev in 1989 "We do not want a united Germany".

Anonymous said...

I think what DC said was completely inaccurate.

The USSR collapsed because it ran a centralised economy. MG came to power at a time when the failure of that economy to generate the wealth required to support the population and army was apparent; he merely took steps to reduce costs (disarmament) and purely by chance, happened to fairly peacefully destablize the Party and the country.

Political leadership was neither here nor there; MG did not set out to achieve what occurred, and so it is clear political leadership failed in that case; and RR was not responsible for the failure of the USSR - their economy was - although something better can be said of him, in that he provided real concessions to the Soviets which gave leaverage to MG and ES, in their process of not achieving what they set out to achieve.

All this stuff about human spirit - rubbish. Human spirit was shot, tortured, murdered and oppressed for seventy or so years in the USSR - what made the USSR end was their choice of economic model and luck.

DC, like all politicans, is basically attempting to justify his existence.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I can't post to this blog using FF. I can post to my own blog. I get a error every time. (Cookies and JS are on).

Paddy Briggs said...

"...Margaret Thatcher, who stood up to Communist tyranny during the Cold War."

One of the great myths of modern history about which Dave seems to know little. Take Alan Clark's "The Tories" - published in 1998 as evidence. Clark, unlike Cameron, was a historian. And he was a great admirer of the blessed Margaret as well. Clark in his very favourable summary of Thatcher's achievements in this book says that there were three "extraordinary victories" attributable to Mrs T:

(1) The Falklands
(2) The shattering of militant trade unionism
(3) The May 1987 General Election hat-trick

Clark doesn’t even mention Mrs Thatcher’s role in "standing up to communism" – and be assured that he would have done if he had thought it significant. Would anyone like to tell me one thing that Mrs T did which could be described as standing up to communist tyranny? I’ll give you one where she kow-towed to it and that was her caving in to China over Hong Kong!

Furor Teutonicus said...

Think YOU have problems?

I have to open a new account every time I wish to write.

"Password not accepted". Funny they can remember my origional screen name every time though.

And I HAVE contacted Blogger. But they appear dissinterested.

Furor Teutonicus said...

At November 09, 2009 2:52 PM , Paddy Briggs said...

Would anyone like to tell me one thing that Mrs T did which could be described as standing up to communist tyranny?

You answer it yourself;

(2) The shattering of militant trade unionism.

(AND I have just had to reregister a new account AGAIN).

Jimmy said...


Yes but to be fair she did ask them not to tell the Germans she'd said that. A politician of deep principle as always.

The idea that the wall was brought down by two politicians, one out of office and one on the way out, always struck me as one of the right's odder delusions. It was falling oil prices that did for them more than anything.

Robert said...

As one wall fell Maastricht and Lisbo produced another. Pity David Cameron isn't prepared to knock that one down.

Will said...

Come on Iain, whatever you say about Maggie Thatcher she was a reactionary who was more concerned about the 'threat' of a united Germany than the freedom of millions behind the Iron Curtain. Reading the Times article Martin posts is shocking.

Paddy Briggs said...

Furor Teutonicus

Of course I wasn't thinking of reds under the bed in Britain but of the rather more powerful lot in the Soviet Bloc and China!!

I dealt with the Unions in my job during the miners' strike in '83/'84. I met no communists - there really weren't that many...

cherami said...

Very little to do with politicians (Egon Krenz did not even know what was happening.)

One of the great heroes of the Fall of the Wall was the conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra who, with a couple of friends, appealed to the police and their stooges not to use force.They listened and they didn't.

It is a wonderful, edifying story.

So was Havel to be in Czechoslovakia.

Politicians? I spit me of the whole damned lot of them.

Blackacre said...

I can't believe that you haven't been to Berlin given your obvious interest in Germany. It is a great place - get over there straight away. I am desperate for an excuse and some time to go back.

MAX said...

What role did the United States and Saudi Arabian oil play in bringing the wall down?

Learn more about this and the importance of November 9th througout German history:

11/9: Turning Points

Furor Teutonicus said...

At November 09, 2009 6:46 PM , Blackacre said...

I can't believe that you haven't been to Berlin given your obvious interest in Germany. It is a great place - get over there straight away. I am desperate for an excuse and some time to go back.

It is a city like any other. Boring in the extreem, useless for shopping in, unless you want "super market" goods, run by damn communists, schools have to have metal detectors and armed guards, the streets are full of beggars. The only good thing is the historical aspects of the place. Other than that FORGET it.

Blackacre said...

I have to take issue with Furor Teutonics. Yes the history is important and that is the major reason to go. But also the culture, food and beer. Currywurst and the Berliner Weiss beer in green or red are a great attraction. The museums are fantastic.

If you do not like big cities (which I asume is the case for Furor), then yes do not go. Otherwise, in my mind it is in the top three in Europe alongside London and Paris.

Furor Teutonicus said...

At November 10, 2009 12:42 PM , Blackacre said...

If you do not like big cities (which I asume is the case for Furor), then yes do not go.

I LIVE in the bloody place. I was bloody BORN here. "ICH BIN EIN BERLINER!"

The place is a DUMP. Except those places the local "Government" pay a fortune on to atract the tourists.

Take for example the MILLIONS of OUR money Wowereit and his commy friends have spent on "Check point Charlie". Na ja? what is with "Checkpoint Bravo, Alpha, Delta, Echo"? Not only no money spent, but no one, excvept ex British and French army, and the Berlin Police even KNOW about them.

As to the place being a dump, try going around Wedding or Neuk├Âln, or Marzhan/Zellendorf, instead of the places the tour guides take you.