Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Remarks by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Permanent Representative to NATO Hans-Dieter Lucas to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

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Secretary General, colleagues, generals, admirals, ladies and gentlemen, a warm welcome to all of you at this commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, 30 years ago. The 9th of November 89 was one of those defining moments in history which changed the world. That is why watching footage of that night when the Wall fell is still so moving for all of us today. Probably very few of us who lived with the Wall as a hard-political reality would have thought that it would be torn down within our lifetimes. But that one night, 30 years ago this Saturday, it actually happened. East German border police opened crossing points in the Berlin Wall, allowing East Berliners to stream through, unhindered, to West Berlin. They crossed the border with incredible joy, amazement, and tears. They danced on, below, and beside the Wall. It was the beginning of the single most dramatic and positive transformation of the political map of post-war Europe. It marked the beginning of the end for the division of Germany and Europe, as well as for the Communist regimes. The fall of the Berlin Wall was unexpected, but it did not happen without reason. It would have been unthinkable without the decision of the then-Hungarian government to open its border to GDR refugees in September ’89. And it is essentially thanks to courageous people in the GDR, Poland, Czechoslovakia and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe that the barriers at the border between the two German states were finally opened. On the 10th of November 1989, a day after the Wall had fallen, the then-NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner said in a statement, “We look to a process of peaceful, “evolutionary change, consistent with the overwhelming “desire of people throughout Europe and indeed the world. “These events once again demonstrate “the persuasive power of the democratic ideals “for which this Alliance stands.” And indeed, in contrast to 1953 in East Germany, 1956 in Hungary, 1968 in Czechoslovakia, and 1981 in Poland, people’s longing for freedom and self-determination could no longer be crushed, neither in East Germany nor anywhere else in Europe. The human desire for freedom turned the division of Europe and the Cold War into things of the past. On this special anniversary, we also remember all the victims of this Wall and the political system it stood for. All those who were killed trying to escape to West Berlin, as well as those who were captured and ended up in jail in their longing for freedom. We also should not forget that November 9th condenses more German history of the 20th Century. It was on that day in 1918 that the German Empire ended, after four terrible years of the First World War. And in 1938, on the 9th of November, the Nazis set fire to synagogues, plundered Jewish homes and businesses, detained and murdered Jewish fellow citizens. Only 1989, with the fall of the Wall, did November 9th become also a joyful date in German history. Many of us enter this building every day by passing this memorial consisting of two original blocks of the Wall. Along with the 9/11 memorial, it is a symbol of what this Alliance stands for, a symbol of Alliance solidarity. NATO Allies opposed the Wall from the beginning. In December 1961, just a few months after construction of the Wall had started, NATO foreign ministers and I quote, “reaffirmed the determination to protect “and defend the liberties of West Berlin “and ensure to its people the conditions “for a free and prosperous life.” We all still recall President Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner”, one year later. During all those years, the Cold War, NATO kept up the vision of a peacefully united Germany and Europe. It was thanks to the solidarity of our Allies that West Germany and West Berlin were safe and able to prosper. And for this, we remain eternally grateful. It could therefore not be more fitting to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall together among Allies here at NATO headquarters. Today, more than 900 million people in the Euro-Atlantic area of 29, and soon 30, Allied countries live together in freedom and peace under the security umbrella of NATO. We will need to stand together if you want to preserve for future generations the promise of democracy and freedom, the promise of that day 30 years ago when the Berlin Wall fell. Thank you for being here. I will now hand over to you, Mr. Secretary General.

Ambassador Lucas, ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us to mark this momentous occasion. And standing here today in front of these pieces of the Berlin Wall, is the time to remember how far we have come. Together, in just a generation. A city, a country, a continent, our transatlantic Alliance, transformed. 29 friends and Allies standing shoulder-to-shoulder. United in defense of freedom and democracy, to preserve the peace, and protect our almost one billion citizens. The Berlin Wall was a scar on the face of Europe. Through gun towers and guard dogs, it tried to keep people in and ideas out. But it failed because our vision and our values were stronger, freedom, democracy, and human dignity. The same values that unite us today, inspired ordinary people, 30 years ago, to achieve something extraordinary. From the shipyards of Gdansk, to the peaceful protests in Dresden and Leipzig, from the pan-European picnic on the Austrian-Hungarian border, to the ringing of keys in Wenceslas Square and the human chain that ran all the way from Vilnius, to Riga and Tallin. A generation of courageous men and women, braved bullets and barbed wire, linked hands, hearts, and minds to live in freedom and democracy to follow their dreams. They proved that no wall can withstand the strength of the human spirit and that peace and solidarity can overcome any opponent. Later this week, I will take part in ceremonies in Berlin to mark the fall of the Wall a city that today stands proudly united. in a country that stands at the heart of our transatlantic Alliance. We are honored to host these pieces of the Berlin Wall here at the entrance of the NATO Headquarters. They serve as a symbol of hope, and a solemn reminder to all those who pass by, to never take freedom and democracy for granted. We must defend them every day and we must continue to stand united. Thank you so much. And thank you again Ambassador Lucas.

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