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Welcoming remarks by Ambassador von Geyr at a festive concert on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

Ambassador von Geyr at a festive concert on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

Ambassador von Geyr at a festive concert on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, © Nikita Markow

11.11.2019 - Rede

November 8, 2019, at the Pashkov-House in Moscow

Like Millions in Germany, in Europe and in the World, the evening of November 9, 1989 I will never forget.
I lived in Munich at that time, working on my thesis –
But we all just couldn´t stop watching tv, the pictures broadcasted from the GDR: prayers, demonstrations, courageous speeches …
There was something very special in the air
about freedom, and about the risk of failure,
about hope, and about fear,
the political dynamics of those days were overwhelming.
Things had evolved since months and weeks, people went on the streets against the falsification of election results, for freedom, to be allowed to travel abroad,
and, at one point, also for unity.
They stated: „we are the people – we are one people“.
Then, on that November 9, a press conference:
the spokesman of the ruling communist party informed that travel to the West was possible via GDR-border posts - with immediate effect.
A sensation! News agencies all over the world broadcasted: „GDR opens border“.
Thousands of East Berliners marched to border posts along the Berlin Wall.
The GDR soldiers there had no directives from their superiors - and they decided to let everybody pass.
Citizens from East and West emotionally celebrated. Pictures of happy people dancing on the Berlin Wall went around the world.

Many had hoped, but nobody really had believed that the Brandenburg Gate, symbol of the cold war, would be opened that very night – and that no force would prevent or stop this.
That night the world changed,
the world we Germans lived in for decades, with a divided country, a divided capital, divided families, divided friends.
1989 life changed for so many other Europeans who regained freedom
and for so many worldwide who saw that things could change you would not think they ever would.

For Germany, with our difficult history throughout the last century, a history that had caused so much pain to others and to ourselves,
this day became the day of joy.

What made November 9 possible?
It was first of all the courageous peaceful demonstrators in the GDR who did not stop to take the streets for weeks and months in their desire for freedom.
They would not have succeeded without the courageous people in Poland, Hungary, the Baltic Countries, Czechoslovakia and all over Central and Eastern Europe
who took the risk to speak out for freedom and against oppression and who inspired each other and gave each other hope.
Thus for me the open Brandenburg Gate gained a truly European character.
November 9 is a European day of joy!
It is a European day of joy, too, because France, Britain and our other European partners stood at our side through decades.
And yes, it is Transatlantic day of joy, too, as our American and Canadian friends never gave up standing in for a Europe that would overcome divide in freedom. This we will never forget.

And: November 9 succeeded peacefully thanks to the Soviet Union.
The reforms undertaken by Mikhail Gorbatchev put pressure on a GDR government that had no power to convince its population and instead just tried to continue locking in its population physically and mentally.
It was thanks to Moscow, that the wind of change could be felt all over our continent, that a spirit was created, which intended to turn confrontation into cooperation.
Nevertheless, in those November days many in Germany and throughout Europe were not only euphoric - they were in fear:
They remembered the events years before, like in East Germany 1953, Budapest 1956, Prague 1968, when tanks and guns made a bloody end to aspirations for freedom.
And: Just a few month before November 9, in February 1989, a young East German was shot dead by East German border guards in Berlin.
I would like to mention his name:
Chris Gueffroy; 20 years old.
He was the last one in a long list of those shot dead when trying to leave his home and to cross one of the most inhumane borders ever erected.
We will always remain grateful that in November 1989 the Soviet Union decided not to interfere and let the peaceful revolution in the GDR continue.

Back to Munich, where I lived at that time:
The next days, November 10, 11, 12 saw thousands of East Germans crossing the border, they enjoyed traveling to the western parts of their country – as it was the case the other way round.
One morning, I saw many Eastern German cars in my street, with people sleeping therein.
I invited some of them for breakfast. We started talking about the wall, about music, sports, about life…
The situation was new for them and for me – and we discovered that little did we know about each other.
Some of them just wouldn´t stop talking, they joked about their lucky moment of history.
Some remained more silent. I asked one girl about her feelings, what her family, parents, friends thought about the last days.
I remember her silence. She was smiling, then crying.
And I felt ashamed that I had asked that stupid question.
The joy of a nation doesn´t come without some who suffer, and we have to take that into account and act with respect - until today.
There were many in the Eastern part of my country and on the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain, who now had to go through difficult times, whose biographies were broken.

Tomorrow, 30 years will have passed since 1989.
New generations have emerged for which the fall of the Berlin Wall represents history, not personal memories.
It is our interest and our obligation, to explain to them the character of that cold war, a world divided by force, which ended that very night.
We have to tell them the story for that today and tomorrow they do not to accept tendencies of a growing alienation between our nations – and this especially in times when, yes, we do have different views and positions on important political issues, when some try to put democratic values in question or violate them.
And we have to tell them the story of 1989, for that they continue working on a Europe truly united, and free, respecting rules we all agree to, and respecting the dignity of each single human being.

It is with this view especially to the young generation in all our countries, to our future,
that tonight I pay tribute to the enthusiasm and courage of all the people who in 1989 peacefully ended oppression.
They ultimately contributed to new co-operation and partnership on our continent which of course includes Russia, a cooperation which is indispensable for solving all the problems and crises around us - and those which are ahead of us.
And we should be careful not to compare challenges we face today to the heavy burden people in Europe carried during the cold war.

It is an honour to welcome you tonight to one of the most beautiful venues in Moscow – to welcome you together with the Director-General of the Russian State Library, Vadim Duda, to the Pashkov-House, a place full of Russian Culture, part of our European Culture.

I would like to particularly thank
The Russian State Library for hosting us, and for contributing with a most interesting exhibition.
I thank our friends from the British Embassy who provided support and translation.
And I thank you all for coming and celebrating together:
Germans and Russians, Europeans, Americans and from so many other countries.
I would like to thank Master Oleg Romanenko
The Moscow State Academic Choir
the Ensemble Collegium Musicum
and our three Soloists.
They have prepared a truly pan European concert for us tonight, culminating in the „Ode to Joy“ by Ludwig van Beethoven, adopted as the Anthem of Europe by the European Union - and by the Council of Europe, that includes Russia.

To remember this day of Joy when the Wall fell,
I could not imagine more appropriate words than „..alle Menschen werden Brüder…“ (all men become brothers), a more beautiful piece of Music, or a more beautiful venue than ours tonight.

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