Twentieth Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall
By: Miodrag Stosic
Belgrade, Nov.9, 2009 (Serbia Today) - The Berlin wall, the concrete barrier that physically separated East Berlin from West Berlin, and psychologically separated the communist world from the free world, fell 20 years ago today. The biggest postwar symbol of the Cold war was built in 1961, and drove a wedge into the heart of Europe. Today, Belgrade, and the world, is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the demolition of the Berlin wall.
In the beginning “the Wall” was in fact simple wire fence which was later replaced with concrete blocs. Afterward, in the seventies it became an impenetrable, reinforced concrete structure and remained so until 1989.
After WWII and before the Berlin Wall was erected, those who did not want to live in East Germany and could not migrate through official channels simply fled. They were met with imposing difficulties by the Soviet authorities administering the region in accordance with the post WWII armistice. By 1963, the massive emigration westward left East Germany with only 61% of its population of working age. The fledgling DDR state in East Germany was faced with a crisis of losing its population and credibility as a sovereign state in the face of the mass exodus of Germans to the West. In the face of total chaos, the East German regime realized that nothing short of totalitarian measures would control the population and border guards were finally given the infamous order - ‘shoot to kill’ your own countrymen if they try to escape.
At that time Serbia was part of Yugoslavia. Although Yugoslavia was still a socialist country it was not a member of Eastern bloc. Many of Yugoslav citizens remember the fall of the Berlin Wall with a bitter sweet mix of emotion, as this moment not only marked the collapse of the Eastern bloc, but the beginning of the ethnic tensions that would eventually tear Yugoslavia apart.
Few can forget when American president, Ronald Regan, demanded “Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” during his visit to Berlin in 1987.
In November 1989 mass demonstrations started in Berlin. German people from both sides of the Berlin Wall came out on the streets and demanded their freedom. Young men, equipped with hammers started to beat the Wall which was a symbolic proof that wall could no longer separate the people. The unification of the people on both sides of the wall symbolized far more than German reunification – it was the end of a bitter division of the world.
Yugoslavia sent a message of support to German protesters. Belgrade radio station broadcasted the performances of rock musicians who were celebrating the arrival of freedom in Berlin. “Wind of freedom” was the most popular song at time in Belgrade. So, we might say that fall of the Berlin wall was saluted from Yugoslav nations that wanted similar changes in their own country.
Today, twenty years after fall of the Berlin wall, the world is no longer the same. Mikhail Gorbachev, former General Secretary of Communist party, says that the biggest benefit from the fall of the wall was realized by Germans and Russians. “I am pleased that we managed to pass through all those changes without shedding any blood” said Gorbachev.
This evening, many citizens of Belgrade will attend the event at the Republic Square that will symbolically mark the fall of the Wall. German artist Frank Belter has built a cardboard model of the Berlin Wall at the Republic Square, to prepare for the ritualistic destruction this evening. The museum which currently houses the wall will be open by Germany's Ambassador in Belgrade Wolfram Mass.
Despite the bitter lessons of the years that followed in Yugoslavia, all Serbs can enjoy the fall of the Berlin Wall and its unmistakable metaphor for the people’s thirst for freedom.