From Stettin in the Baltic to to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent
~Winston Churchill, Westminster College, March 5, 1946
On Saturday, October 25, I saw a bunch of kids protesting in front of the Royal Ontario Museum, in Toronto; they were against dinosaurs bones being exhibited, they wanted to bury back the bones. “Dinos are people too”, they were yelling. I wanted to kick their asses.
Such waste of organization, such abuse of the right of expression, such misuse of the privilege of being free. Only a few years ago, people would die for such a privilege.
Today is the 19th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. We may not remember, or may not know, the series of events that lead to this fall. Some people would remember Reagan’s words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” and think that his speech was a definitive hit to the Iron Curtain. These people piss me off.
The heroes here, the people with the real balls of steel, were not the manifestants in safe Western Europe and USA. There were not the neo hippies of late 90s; they were the East Germans, Hungarians, Poles, Czechs, all the people from the Warsaw’s Pact who actually risked their lives for Freedom.
The Berlin Wall did not “fell” 19 years today; it was chipped away for the brave men and women behind the Iron Curtain.
In 1989, the Stasi was still eliminating anti-communist and jailing people, when in May 2nd, the Hungarians made the first hole in the Iron Curtain. They cut the barrier between Magyar and Austria. Thousands of East Germans flocked down to Hungary, one of the few places they could travel. The West German embassies in Budapest and Prague were invaded by thousands of refugees.
The GDR’s government stopped the visas to travel to Hungary in August, which led the East German population to flood the streets of Dresden and Leipzig, manifesting against the measure. They were risking their lives: The GDR’s General Secretariat, Erich Honecker, was one of the last hard liners and wanted to eradicate the manifestations. People like Günter Schabowski, Berlin’s communist party leader, were trying desperately to hold him.
September 25, 1989: The Stasi arrested hundreds of manifestants in Leipzig. At the same time, the embassy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in Prague gave authorization to the East Germans camping in the Embassy to go to the FRG by train, but they should go through East Germany. When those trains arrived to Dresden, thousand of Germans tried to board them, while the police tried to stop them; the trains could not stop in Dresden, but they arrived in the FRG. That was a major hit to the GDR.
A few days later, in Oct 6th, Gorbachev arrived in Berlin to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the GDR. Unlike Honeken, the Soviet leader knew that the repression could not go on. He stated that History will testify against those who act too late.
Alexanderplatz, East Berlin: Gorbachev is back in Moscow and the 40th anniversary is over. The people of Berlin flooded the plaza, and the Stasi started acting fast, arresting everybody. People like Andreas Gutzeit, journalist, are taken to jail and interrogated. Meanwhile, the army is bieng trained to fight a war against the German People. In October 23rd, more cities joined the manifestations against the dictatorial regime, and Honeken is planning a bloody repression, then, Guenther Schabowski and other moderates realise that a confrontation against their own people will have disastrous consequences and they demand Honeken’s resignation. Surprisly, he accepts, but some hard-line leaders in the Stasi and the Army refuse to soft down.
In November 6th, Leipzig is witness of a huge manifestation, where half million people go to the street. The army receives instructions to stand on guard and is provided with two and a half times the ammunitions they would receive in case of Armed Conflict. They could level Berlin.
In November the 9th, only nineteen years ago, Schabowski and his allies are trying to negotiate a moderated solution to the conflict, while the East German Army marchs towards Berlin; then, in the Parliament, an agreement is reached: They will allow the travel abroad, in organised manner. A reported asked “when this measure will be in effect?” to what Schabowski answered “As far as I know effective immediately, without delay”.
Schabowski made the announcement too soon, the army does not know anything about the agreement; what the East German Politburo thought was a measure to buy time, opened the Wall doors. At 19:45 the world heard Schabowski: Everybody but the East German Army. One hour later, the East Germans started to line in Checkpoint Charlie, while the army was still in red alert. The orders are to protect the German Democratic Republic and its borders. The army is deployed in the checkpoints only to find thousands of East Germans demanding entry into West Berlin. Two hours after Schabowski announcement, the army has orders to shoot to kill anybody trying to cross the border. The world is nevertheless alert of the new agreement, and from West Berlin thousands of people started heading to the Wall. The soldiers tried to confirm orders to their superiors but all the lines are jammed, overwhelmed by all the officers trying to clarify the situation. The West Germans are climbing the Wall. The East German Army is crunched between East and West Germans, then, some newspapers started to circulate. DDR: Ab sofort alle grenzan offen: GDR: From now on, all the borders are open. The army officials decided not to resist the people’s power; 22:30, East German officers opened the checkpoint controls.
The Berlin Wall has ceased to exist.