The date that changed the world
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Anke Reiffenstuel (The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2019 - 12:00am

“Freiheit, schöner Götterfunken” (Freedom, beautiful spark of divinity)  Nov. 9, 1989 marked a tremendous and monumental event, not only for Germany but also for Europe and the whole world. That the text of Schiller’s Ode to Joy - which Beethoven had included in his 9th symphony  was changed to celebrate and to capture these moments testify to its significance and transformative impact in the course of history. On that day, the Berlin Wall ultimately fell.

This week, we commemorate the 30th anniversary of bringing down the Berlin Wall which had separated the people in East Germany from their friends and families in West Germany for nearly three decades. Its existence became a symbol of both physical and ideological division that was, by many, believed to last forever. And yet, the events that unfolded in November 1989 became a unique crossroad in German and European history.

Therefore, on Nov. 9th, we do not only celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall but also the courage of the people in East Germany and whole of Eastern Europe to gain freedom and democracy. It’s also a celebration of a Europe that has been united in the course of these historic events. At the same time, amidst the growing challenges in the world, it is obvious that we can only preserve what we have won when we work together closely. The main global challenges we are confronted with – climate change, globalization, digitalization and migration – can only be tackled through joint efforts. Together we must defend an international order that secures peace and multilateralism has proven to be a reliable basis for success in this endeavor. 

That night of Nov. 9th, 1989 changed everything for millions of people. This historic event eventually led to the fall of the “Iron Curtain”, as well as the end of the Cold War and of the bipolar world order we had known for so long. The events of autumn 1989 in Germany showed that it is worth taking risks for freedom and democracy. The weeks and months of demonstrations of thousands and thousands of people in East Germany illustrated that the will of the people to uphold their political and human rights and enjoy freedom and democracy was overwhelming and could not be oppressed any longer. What followed was the reunification of Germany on Oct. 3rd, 1990, and a long, and often challenging process of uniting the societies of East and West Germany. Since then, the world has changed enormously. We all are confronted with huge and global challenges in Germany and worldwide. The world has become much more complex. In an ever more complex, interdependent, digitalized and fast-paced environment, there’s a longing for simple answers, for clear statements. But there are no easy answers, no easy solutions to these challenges. We can only find the right answers and solutions when we cooperate and work together. For Germany, international and multilateral work starts in Europe, within the European Union.

The Berlin Wall that had surrounded West Berlin was made of concrete, almost 160 km long and about 3m high. After 1989, it was completely removed and many segments of it can today be found in museums, parks and memorial sites in Germany and around the world. One large piece was donated to the City of Manila, “as part of the municipal relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of the Philippines […] to mark the vanquished division of Berlin, Germany and Europe”, as the deed of donation reads. The segment of the wall was transported here in 2015 and is currently kept at the National Museum, waiting to be put on permanent display in a park. Currently, we are working on the details with our Philippine friends and I trust that we will very soon be able to unveil this monument. Thus, making this symbol of close friendship and strong partnership between the peoples of our two countries accessible for the public in the center of the capital.

The Berlin Wall and the peaceful demonstrations that brought it down 30 years ago have taught us about our responsibility for freedom and democracy, and that history is not something written in dusty old books but the very result of the actions and initiatives we ourselves take in our lifetime.

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(Anke Reiffenstuel is the Ambassador of Germany.)

CHANGED THE WORLD
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