May 27, 2004

WFB on Berlin Wall

I just finished reading the first four installments of William F. Buckley's series on the Berlin Wall over at NRO. The series is excerpted from Buckley's book, The Fall of the Berlin Wall, and it's a terrific history lesson and an enjoyable read. Here are the links to the individual articles, (I'll add Part V tomorrow).

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

From today's segment comes this excerpt describing the scene on that day in 1989 when the German people found out that the Wall would come down:

At about 9 PM on Thursday, November 9, the press conference seemed to be winding up when a reporter asked one final question. Hesitantly, and without looking into the camera, as if what he had to say was not entirely fit for public discussion, Schabowski pronounced magic words. "Permanent emigration is henceforth allowed across all border crossing points between East Germany and West Germany and West Berlin."

Viewers turned to each other in disbelief. . . . Did he say what I thought he said? Then, Is this some kind of trick?

A few decided to test out the words of manumission. There and then. A group of friends, who had been watching the televised press conference in a bar, quickly paid their bill and walked four blocks to the nearest border crossing, at Bornholmerstrasse. They showed their identity cards to the Grepo on duty. He permitted them to cross the bridge into West Berlin. One of them spoke to an American reporter. "To walk across this bridge into West Berlin is the most normal thing in the world. But things haven't been normal here for 28 years."

The news traveled with the speed of light. West Berliners also poured out into the streets. By midnight the whole area between the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie was one huge, joyous party. Car horns tooted, there was dancing in the streets, and champagne, or a reasonable substitute, was raised in toasts, drunk, and sprayed around the assembly.

There were tears too, of relief, of sadness for wasted years, of mourning for those who had died trying to escape. One young man said in wonderment, "I couldn't imagine that I'd ever just be able to walk through the Brandenburg Gate. It's unreal, unbelievable." Willy Brandt told a group of revelers, "Nothing will be the same again."

Posted by dan at May 27, 2004 11:24 PM