A Personal Take on the Fall of East Germany

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

Recently, one of the most important persons in the history of Germany, Guenter Schabowski, passed away at the age of 86. More than any person in what used to be the German Democratic Republic (popularly called East Germany), Guenter Schabowski, brought down the widely hated Berlin Wall that not only encompassed the capital city, Berlin, but actually also separated East Germany from West Germany. Guenter Schabowski was one of the senior members of the central committee of the Socialist Unity Party when the East German government announced a complete change in the rules for travel outside of East Germany for East Germans. Some say Schabowski blundered when he said that all border points would be opened to all East Germans immediately. I do not think he blundered. I think in his heart he knew that East Germany was finished and he was trying to find a peaceful way out. And that is how history played out. The affair of the end of the Berlin Wall was a surprisingly peaceful event.

We all know that on that day, November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came crashing down. This marked the end of all former Communist states in Europe and heralded a total change in the map of Europe since the end of World War II. Eventually, it led to the dissolution of East Germany and a reunified Germany. However, it nearly did not happen that way. Believe it or not, I was in East Germany in August, 1989, when tens of thousands of East Germans were escaping to other eastern European countries and to the democratic European countries. The East German government tried to stop them, and hence closed all of East Germany’s borders with every country in the Eastern Bloc. I was there with my friend Constanze when the East German government applied more restrictive rules for allowing anyone out of the country. We were afraid that the East German government would totally cut off any access for East Germans to leave the country, and would apply a military solution for ending the protests that were beginning to happen.

When I left the situation, it looked like the East German government would use deadly force as was done in China in June of that year to crush any and all peaceful protests. I was quite afraid for my friend Constanze and her family. But when the Soviet Union did not provide any support for crushing the mushrooming protests that were taking place throughout East Germany, the East German government backed down and tried to find a more peaceful way of dealing with the situation. I and so many East Germans who were watching the situation were greatly relieved that this is how it all played out. As of November 9th, 26 years will have elapsed since one of the greatest changes in world history took place. And Guenter Schabowski helped to bring about this change that has redrawn the map of Europe and secured a peace that might have never been. Rest in peace Guenter Schabowksi.

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