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Fall of Berlin Wall brought ‘peaceful revolution’

Joseph McMahon | Tuesday, October 13, 2009

  Dr. Horst Teltschik, the former national security advisor to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall by recalling his experiences as an insider during the process and the importance of peace in affecting social change.

“This was a peaceful revolution,” Teltschik said. “And it changed Germany, Europe and the world.”
Director of the Nanovic Institute Jim McAdams said Teltschik was a “consummate insider” who was one of the principal architects of the unification of Germany following the fall of the Wall on Nov. 9, 1989.
Teltschik said 1989 was a critical year not only for Germany, but also for countries such as Poland and Hungary, which elected democratic governments and began opening up their borders. 
He also said there was a great deal of mistrust between the Soviets and the West in the years before Mikhail Gorbachev rose to power, which were marked by a series of sickly, old Soviet leaders.
“We went to the funeral of [Secretary General Yuri] Andropov just to make sure he was dead,” Teltschik said. “[With Gorbachev] suddenly there was a young and healthy Secretary General.”
When the Hungarian border to Austria was first opened, Teltschik said the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) saw a sudden influx of 10,000 immigrants from the German Democratic Republic (DDR). 
“Freedom was the main desire of these people,” he said.
Following this exodus, many within the DDR began to push for open borders. Teltschik said the primary reason for the fall of the Wall and unification was the desire of those in the DDR to be free. In the weeks leading up to Nov. 9, protests gripped the entire country.
“Within a few days there were protests all over the country and [there was] always no violence,” he said.
Teltschik said the peacefulness of the protests was critical to their success.
“[The Soviets] were ready to suppress the unrest, but fortunately it didn’t happen,” he said. “[One Soviet administrator said they] were prepared to meet all challenges, but not candles and prayers.”
Following the fall, Teltschik said the primary concerns were removing the estimated one to 1.5 million Soviet soldiers in East Germany and to sign a ban on nuclear weapons.
“It’s really unbelievable what was happening,” he said. “It was really a miracle [that] not one shot was fired.”
Teltschik said help from abroad, especially the United States and President George H.W. Bush, was crucial to the unification process.
“It was one of the best times in U.S. — German relations,” he said. “This was fundamental, because after [unification] U.S. focus switched to Iraq.”
Equally important was Gorbachev’s promise that he would not interfere as past Soviet administrators had.
“This is the real historic merit of Gorbachev,” he said.
However, Teltschik said his original estimate for the unification process was five to ten years, rather than the 329 days it took.
“Nobody expected that it would happen that fast,” he said.
Teltschik said the main reason the process was so expedited was the simple desire of the East Germans to be free and live in a prosperous society. He estimated that if unification hadn’t happened so quickly, the BDR would have been saturated with one million refugees by the end of 1990. 
“Decisions on our side seemed so quick that Moscow wasn’t able to respond in time,” he said. “[Despite some objections from the international community] Kohl moved ahead and history has proved him right.”
Teltschik said he learned some important lessons in the years from 1989 to 1991. Firstly, it was critical that Germany continued to be a part of a more integrated Europe.
“[French President Francois Mitterrand’s] main concern was that a united Germany would not continue its path of European integration,” he said.
Teltschik said this path to a more united Europe has continued through the work of the European Union, but an equally important lesson was a united Germany would only be acceptable is it continued to be a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Teltschik said both of these lessons are important when considering Germany’s history as an aggressor in several wars, most notably World War II.
“Germans should never forget their history,” he said. “[The rest of the world] cannot live with a bigger and stronger Germany outside of the alliance.”
However, Teltschik said both the roles of the EU and NATO have been called into question lately, with the EU going through the painful process of integrating new member states and NATO currently bogged down in Afghanistan.
“We still don’t know if NATO should have a regional responsibility or a worldwide one,” he said.
While invoking the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Teltschik said “should a united, free and democratic Europe not be our goal?”
Nonetheless, Teltschik said not much has happened since 1991 in working towards that goal.
“We have wasted the past 20 years,” he said.
Lastly, Teltschik said he had noticed a recent shift in global power structure. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has been able to act as a unilateral world power. Teltschik said recently, countries such as China, India and Russia have been challenging the U.S.’s hegemony.
Teltschik said “a multi-polar world would not be a safe world order,” noting last time power was distributed so widely it led to two world wars.
“The United States and the European Union are natural partners,” he said. “We need strategic and global leaders with the courage to make decisions and to act.”

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

-

archive

Fall of Berlin Wall brought ‘peaceful revolution’

Joseph McMahon | Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dr. Horst Teltschik, the former national security advisor to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall by recalling his experiences as an insider during the process and the importance of peace in affecting social change.

“This was a peaceful revolution,” Teltschik said. “And it changed Germany, Europe and the world.”

Director of the Nanovic Institute Jim McAdams said Teltschik was a “consummate insider” who was one of the principal architects of the unification of Germany following the fall of the Wall on Nov. 9, 1989.

Teltschik said 1989 was a critical year not only for Germany, but also for countries such as Poland and Hungary, which elected democratic governments and began opening up their borders.

He also said there was a great deal of mistrust between the Soviets and the West in the years before Mikhail Gorbachev rose to power, which were marked by a series of sickly, old Soviet leaders.

“We went to the funeral of [Secretary General Yuri] Andropov just to make sure he was dead,” Teltschik said. “[With Gorbachev] suddenly there was a young and healthy Secretary General.”

When the Hungarian border to Austria was first opened, Teltschik said the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) saw a sudden influx of 10,000 immigrants from the German Democratic Republic (DDR).

“Freedom was the main desire of these people,” he said.

Following this exodus, many within the DDR began to push for open borders. Teltschik said the primary reason for the fall of the Wall and unification was the desire of those in the DDR to be free. In the weeks leading up to Nov. 9, protests gripped the entire country.

“Within a few days there were protests all over the country and [there was] always no violence,” he said.

Teltschik said the peacefulness of the protests was critical to their success.

“[The Soviets] were ready to suppress the unrest, but fortunately it didn’t happen,” he said. “[One Soviet administrator said they] were prepared to meet all challenges, but not candles and prayers.”

Following the fall, Teltschik said the primary concerns were removing the estimated one to 1.5 million Soviet soldiers in East Germany and to sign a ban on nuclear weapons.

“It’s really unbelievable what was happening,” he said. “It was really a miracle [that] not one shot was fired.”

Teltschik said help from abroad, especially the United States and President George H.W. Bush, was crucial to the unification process.

“It was one of the best times in U.S. – German relations,” he said. “This was fundamental, because after [unification] U.S. focus switched to Iraq.”

Equally important was Gorbachev’s promise that he would not interfere as past Soviet administrators had.

“This is the real historic merit of Gorbachev,” he said.

However, Teltschik said his original estimate for the unification process was five to ten years, rather than the 329 days it took.

“Nobody expected that it would happen that fast,” he said.

Teltschik said the main reason the process was so expedited was the simple desire of the East Germans to be free and live in a prosperous society. He estimated that if unification hadn’t happened so quickly, the BDR would have been saturated with one million refugees by the end of 1990.

“Decisions on our side seemed so quick that Moscow wasn’t able to respond in time,” he said. “[Despite some objections from the international community] Kohl moved ahead and history has proved him right.”

Teltschik said he learned some important lessons in the years from 1989 to 1991. Firstly, it was critical that Germany continued to be a part of a more integrated Europe.

“[French President Francois Mitterrand’s] main concern was that a united Germany would not continue its path of European integration,” he said.

Teltschik said this path to a more united Europe has continued through the work of the European Union, but an equally important lesson was a united Germany would only be acceptable is it continued to be a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Teltschik said both of these lessons are important when considering Germany’s history as an aggressor in several wars, most notably World War II.

“Germans should never forget their history,” he said. “[The rest of the world] cannot live with a bigger and stronger Germany outside of the alliance.”

However, Teltschik said both the roles of the EU and NATO have been called into question lately, with the EU going through the painful process of integrating new member states and NATO currently bogged down in Afghanistan.

“We still don’t know if NATO should have a regional responsibility or a worldwide one,” he said.

While invoking the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Teltschik said “should a united, free and democratic Europe not be our goal?”

Nonetheless, Teltschik said not much has happened since 1991 in working towards that goal.

“We have wasted the past 20 years,” he said.

Lastly, Teltschik said he had noticed a recent shift in global power structure. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has been able to act as a unilateral world power. Teltschik said recently, countries such as China, India and Russia have been challenging the U.S.’s hegemony.

Teltschik said “a multi-polar world would not be a safe world order,” noting last time power was distributed so widely it led to two world wars.

“The United States and the European Union are natural partners,” he said. “We need strategic and global leaders with the courage to make decisions and to act.”

-

The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

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archive

Fall of Berlin Wall brought ‘peaceful revolution’

Robert Singer | Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Almost two decades since the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989, the University’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies marked the historic milestone by bring together academics and diplomats who experienced communist East Germany firsthand for “Fall of the Wall: Twenty Years Later” on Monday.

Nancy McAdams, associate director for the Educational Schooling and Society minor, lived in East Berlin while her husband was on academic leave from Princeton just 18 months before the wall fell. One day, she and her daughter returned to their car to find a man trying to unlock it.

“Before I could say ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’ he threw me a strange look, smiled knowingly and disappeared down an alley,” she said. “My first instinct was to call for the police but on second thought I realized he probably was the police.”

The “two worlds” separated by the wall were peacefully united when it crumbled – to the astonishment of many people at the time.

Ambassador J.D. Bindenagel, who was U.S. deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in East Berlin at the time, said few people foresaw the event and the peaceful transition that ensued.

“The East Germans would not be the first ones out of the bloc,” he said, repeating the conventional wisdom of the time. “They’d be the last ones. If the Soviet Union would intervene anywhere to protect its interests, it would be in East Germany.”

In the months leading up to Nov. 9, Bindenagel said nonviolent confrontation became the rule for East Germany’s police force.

“On November 9, the day we all remember as the fall of the Berlin wall, things unraveled. I began the day with the military leaders of East and West Germany,” he said. “We were meeting not having any idea that something would change rest of the world.”

Administrative assistant for the Nanovic Institute Jennifer Lechtanski commented on the peaceful nature of Germany’s unification.

“When the fall happened there were no guns going off, there was rejoicing,” she said. “There were demonstrations, people protesting for their rights, for their freedoms. There wasn’t the violence we see quite frequently all over the world in people’s bid for their political rights.”

Before the fall of the wall, McAdams said she found advantages to living in East Berlin, despite the lack of political rights. Crime, she said, did not exist as we experience it in the West, because of an ever-present police force.

“For example, to my utter amazement, parents could leave strollers and baby buggies with infants inside outside of stores while they shopped,” she said. “No one would consider that a child might be harmed or snatched when left in a buggy on a public sidewalk.”

McAdams said a communal spirit emerged in East Berlin, as people coped with the burdens of goods scarcities and an invasive government.

“Looking back now, it certainly was paradoxical that in the climate created by such a suspicious government, people still managed to believe, at least somewhat, that they could depend upon the goodness in human nature,” she said.