November is a particularly poignant period when it comes to reflecting on history. The eleventh month of 2019 has additional importance as it is the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It was a wall which had split a city, a country and to a certain extent a continent. It was a physical representation of the cold war and the suffering which it brought to the people of such an influential city. Its destruction in 1989 brought to an end the divisions in Germany. In the east was communist, the brutal regime which grew from Stalinism. In the west, capitalism and a life which was much better for Berliners.
The wall was built in 1961, separating families and friends with little opportunity to be reunited. The iron curtain was a concept given to the division of Europe at the end of the second world war; The Berlin Wall was a literal concrete divide which had manifested from cold war tensions.
For 28 years, the wall separated Berliners and Germans from each other. uprisings and protests against the Soviet regime led to the beginning of the end of not just the wall, but the Communist regime as a whole.
Speaking at a memorial service for the thirtieth anniversary, German chancellor Angela Merkel said:
“The values on which Europe is founded — freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, human rights — they are anything but self-evident and they have to be revitalised and defended time and time again.
“We stand stripped of any excuses and are required to do our part of freedom and democracy.”
The wall signified the strength and allusiveness of the Soviet Union. Yet as Germany celebrated its unification, the cracks had begun to show in the Communist Party. Mikhail Gorbachev had been undermined after the Chernobyl Nuclear accident in 1986 which had shown the Soviet Union to be vulnerable. The fall of the Berlin Wall proved this to a further extent and the Party would gradually lose its grip on Eastern Europe until its demise was completed in December 1991.
The Berlin Wall symbolised everything which was bleak about the Cold War. The lack of freedom, the suffering of those in East Germany and the socio-economic inequality between the Eastern Bloc and Capitalist West. The wall stood for nearly three decades, but the issues in Germany dated back to the end of the Second World War. The German people had suffered through years of war and then an extended period of financial and social chaos.
From the Fascist rule of the Nazis to the grip of Soviet communism, Germany as a nation was pushed to the brink for over half a century. It is for these reasons that the fall of the Berlin Wall was such an important event. For the first time since before the First World War, the German people were truly united and able to move forward to become the developed and multicultural nation which it now, in 2019, has become.