The wall fell 30 years ago today; the most monumental event of an extraordinary year of freedom – 1989. The news should be wall-to-wall wall, but somehow it is as if the world has moved on. The sudden burst of freedom the year brought to many, many millions cannot be an ‘and finally’ on the news. We must never, never forget what lay behind the Berlin Wall and the thousand miles of barbed wire and minefields that snaked across the continent to stop the slave subjects of Communism from slipping their bonds into freedom.
The joy of escape that those imprisoned Germans felt as they entered West Berlin reverberated across the world, and although they were only escaping into a small bubble city itself trapped within the east, it was an escape into freedom that they could know at once, and at the same time, the border all across Germany was opened, but it was the wall, the horrible wall, which symbolised it all. That night men went out with pickaxes and began to take their revenge upon it, to open it physically. Once this would have been greeted with gunfire, but now with cheers.
There was no sense that the East Berliners were unwilling to accept an unaccustomed freedom, not knowing what it was – they and their parents had not lived in freedom for fifty-six years, not since Hitler snuffed it out, and Stalin followed him. They knew freedom though when they breathed it – it is the instinct of mankind.
I was in Berlin a few years later, and picked up a chunk of the wall. That piece, in its condition smashed off by that hand of a free Berliner was a symbol both of freedom, and of the slavery which preceded it. The dark days should never be sanitised, nor our accustomed freedom be treated lightly.