This past Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the full-scale demolition of the infamous Berlin Wall. It is a fall that the world has been celebrating since the first brick fell to the ground. It is the Kodak moment that will never go away.
We all know that the wall meant so much more than just its physical structure. It was the wall between light and dark, between democracy and communism.
The tense political conflict of the Cold War bore its symbolism in the wall. One side reminded us of the good democracy offered, the other side reminded us of the atrocity of communism.
Radical communism was the catalyst for the emigration of East Germans. East Germans knew its consequences. According to a report by the University of California, Davis, between the end of World War II (1945) and the erection of the Berlin Wall (1951), there were approximately 2.6 million emigrants of East Germany.
Communism ruined countless lives and destroyed the once stable democracies of Europe. When the wall came down, the world knew that the light at the end of the tunnel had finally been reached.
It was a signal that for once, that current communist-ruled countries in Europe would not be under tyrannical socialist regimes, and instead have basic human rights restored.
This moment, etched into history is a “remember-where-you-were” feeling. It brought feelings of hope, knowing that the end of socialism is near. The hope of Europe being a continent of liberal democracies was that hope.
The barrier of 12 feet, with elaborate security measures, stood as what the world knew as the true “iron curtain.” Figuratively and physically, it blocked the passage of freedom for East Germans and a dead end to democracy for West Germans.
It was virtually impossible to climb over the wall on the East German side, the use of firearms shot any individual attempting to climb into freedom in West Germany. The city of Berlin lists that there are 140 documented deaths during the wall’s existence of East Germans trying to escape.
Every year on August 23, the world remembers Black Ribbon Day, the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. The attempted escapees of East Germany who perished are remembered on this day. It is a day to serve as a reminder to remember the dire consequences both communism and Nazism have had on German society, European society, and humanity as a whole.
The world remembers that there were multiple well-known crossings during the time of the wall’s presence, such as Checkpoint Charlie and Checkpoint Bravo, however, less emphasis is given on the Glienicke Bridge.
The Glienicke Bridge, also known as the “Bridge of Spies” was another, lesser-known crossing that played the host to multiple prisoner exchanges, most notably the exchange for Natan Sharansky in 1986.
The exchanges were what history remembers. The bridge is what history forgets. The bridge was one of the few methods known that prisoners were exchanged while the 12-foot barricade stood still. Upon the fall of the wall, it was one of the first crossings to open, reunifying Germany in the process as well.
There was always optimism that one day, Germany would undergo reunification, both politically and geographically. The demise of the Berlin Wall played a big part in what would become the reunified Federal Republic of Germany. It leaves a legacy that is unparalleled to any other.
Germany, as we know it today, is the result of the fall of communism. It is because the European continent finally came to agree that socialism does not work. Democracy based on capitalism is how the world should run.
The pain and hardships caused by communism do not bring growth or prosperity. Europe saw that the far-left run on communism and the far-right run on national socialism (Nazism) does not work.
The end of the Berlin Wall serves as a continued reminder to humanity that democracy can be restored, and that it can withstand communist regimes. The evils of socialism are now long gone, and liberal democracies rank supreme in Europe.
This fall will likely be the most revered fall of any entity known to mankind. It marks the near end of the horrors of collectivism and the new beginnings of the political order in a continent that was thought to be upside down for more than just the Cold War.
The capitulation of the Berlin Wall will be in history books as the single moment that defined what democracy would be, not just in Germany, not just in Europe, but for the world at large, from generation to generation.