Yes, friends and neighbours, today November 9th, 15 years ago, the iron curtain finished its miserable life in Berlin, starting with a funny little press conference on the 9 o’clock news of “Aktuelle Kamera”, and 2 hours later, one of the most hardliner Soviet satellite state was history, and with it the Berlin Wall and as a nice little extra, the whole iron curtain crumbled to pieces.
That was the only time in my life when I was actually a little bit proud to be German, because it was and still is one of the great historical achievements (IMHO) that they did this without firing one shot.
Most of you will know the story of 1989, how it started during the summer, so I guess it’s useless to post it, just let me remind you of some milestones during that summer that I will never forget:
1. The scene at the German embassy in Prague, where 6,000 East Germans lived under sub-human conditions, when German secretary of state Genscher went up on the balcony and said something like “…darf Ihnen mitteilen, dass heute Ihre Ausreise…”, the rest went under in a collective scream, they cheered so loud, no more words could be heard.
2. The GDR government had negotiated that the trains that should bring these 6,000 to West Germany should drive through GDR stations slowly, to make a political statement…can you imagine the terror of those people inside the trains? But then, they rolled through Dresden…and there were thousands of people cheering like mad, making a statement of their own!!
3. During October, the demonstrations in Berlin brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets, their motto was “Wir sind das Volk” (WE
are the people), and as was found out later, Erich Honecker had signed the order to bring down the crowd by violence, ordering tanks to Alexanderplatz. The order got stuck somewhere in the middle of the chain of command, it never reached the tank commanders and the commanders of the Volkspolizei (who had already downright refused to shoot).
4. Also in October Erich “ick liebe Euch doch alle” Mielke signed an order to bring down the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig by chemical warfare…here as well, the order just faded away while being handed down the chain of command (and those who know Stasi-Mielke: These people virtually put their own lives to risk!!)
5. And finally that press conference with Politbureau-Member Guenther Schabowski speaking of the freedom of media and the freedom to travel freely….and somebody asked “and when will this happen??” And Onkel Guenther (he’s now an after dinner speaker in Berlin, a very funny one, and they call him Onkel Guenther) says “Keene Ahnung, da steht hier nüscht, ick würde mal sajen, ab sofort, wa?” in broad Berliner slang, meaning “no idea, they didn’t tell me, I’d say, right now”.
…and 2 hours later, the GDR was history (actually it was 11 months later, but in fact it dies that night)!! Thousands dancing on top of the wall (like myself
), ten thousands standing around on the Kurfuerstendamm, looking as if they just woke up from a strange dream, then the first bottles of champagne and “Rotkaeppchensekt” went around, and then the real party started, just to be repeated the next night and the next…