The Wall began coming down

Thirty years ago Saturday, Nov. 9, 1989, a great symbol of the enslavement of a people began to crumble.

The German Democratic Republic — the puppet regime of the Soviet Union in East Germany — announced that residents of East Berlin would no longer be restricted from crossing to freedom in West Berlin. People immediately began crawling over the dreaded Berlin Wall — the 1961 Cold War artifact that kept East Germans slaves of their communist masters.

By the end of the following year, the wall had been torn completely down.

The destruction of the wall did not occur in a vacuum, of course. It followed the liberalization — and eventual liberation — of governments in Poland and Hungary in Eastern Europe. The support of the Western Allies and the Catholic Church under Polish Pope John Paul II emboldened the Solidarity Movement in Poland, and it gathered strength throughout the 1980s and the push for freedom spread.

It is also true that Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev resisted hardliners in his country and refused to send armies to quell the revolts. The Soviets’ Eastern Bloc crumbled.

In 1991, the Soviet Union itself collapsed.

Throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the wall was a constant reminder of what was at stake in the Cold War — freedom vs. slavery. American presidents famously used the wall to drive home that point.

Just months before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy stood before the wall on June 26, 1963, and proclaimed, “Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner).”

On June 12 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate at the wall and challenged the Soviet secretary general, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Just over two years later, the wall began coming down.

(Sources: The Washington Post and Wikipedia)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.


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