David Madore's WebLog: 1989-11-09

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[Montage of pictures]Three score years ago, a great shadow was being fought out of this continent. But such is the tide in the affairs of men that, no sooner had one evil been drawn away than another took its place: from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain descended across Europe. One war followed close on the heels of another, and, cold as it was called, did not fail to take its toll of souls. A specter, they said, was haunting Europe, and another sought to oppose it. The former capital of Germany became a great battlefield of that war, where these forces met most direly, for on August 13, 1961, the curtain took a shape: and on that day, the city was split asunder, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wished to be joined together.

Fifteen years ago to the day, on the night from November 9 to 10, 1989, the wall fell. This momentous event came as a great beacon light of hope to millions. So that night would go down in History as the night when the third—the cold—world war ended; coincidentally, on the very anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Weimar that ended the first world war in 1918, and of that night in 1938 which sounded as the sinister prelude to the massacres of the second world war.

Perhaps, when History is too close to our eyes, we fail to recognize it as such. Few today, it seems, are keen to recognize the importance of what I consider one of the three or four most memorable dates of the twentieth century (and undoubtedly the most important world event in my lifetime): and commemorations have been kept to a bare minimum, even, it would appear, in Germany.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin.

(And, for my part, I definitely owe an apology to a couple of great orators for stealing some of their best lines. Strangely enough, nobody seems to have made any remarkable speech on the occasion of the fall of the Berlin wall: the only oration associated with the artefact is John Kennedy's famous Ich bin ein Berliner on 1963-06-26—which I did not hesitate to plunder of nice phrases. Was Helmut Kohl incapable of coming up with some memorable line? Or was he too taken by the suddenness of it all to get someone to write some for him in advance? Or Gorbachev?)

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