If one can point to a particular date on which the Cold War ended, it would be November 9th, 1989. Twenty years ago today, the East German government lifted travel restrictions on its citizens and they responded by practically ripping down the Berlin Wall with whatever hammers, axes and picks they could find. Events moved so rapidly that fall it was nearly impossible to keep up. You can see it in the eyes of some of the E. German border guards in the video clip. They're stunned, in shock. They don't know whether to be upset that their authority is now gone or be thrilled that they too are free for the first time in their lives.
Monday, November 09, 2009
When all this was happening, I was coincidentally taking a course on the politics of the Soviet system. At the beginning of the course things were already starting to happen. Our professor asked us when we thought Germany would be reunified. None of us, including the professor thought it would happen within the next 20 years. Most of us thought it would be 50 years. As it happened, it was all over bar the shouting by the end of that semester and the last official i's were dotted and t's crossed in a little more than a year.
I think too, that the European Union played a significant role in the speed of the reunification. Both Thatcher and Mitterand were reluctant to allow a rapid reunification. The EU provided a safe context in which a reunified Germany could emerge. In a very real sense, the presence of the EU meant that E. Germany wasn't only merging with W. Germany but with all of Western Europe. That fact made Thatcher's World War II era language of "Anschluss" sound a bit silly (referred to reunification by the same term used to describe Hitler's annexation of Austria instead of by the term the Germans on both sides were using "Wiedervereinigung"). It also gave Mitterand a way to see how he could work an angle for French benefit out of the whole deal.
From a German perspective, it meant that E. Germans were in the EU for 14 years before their Polish, Czech and East-Central European neighbors were admitted. The advantage in that is easily visible. I visited the former E. Germany a couple of years after reunification and it reminded me of the worst hit parts of the "Rust Belt" in the American Great Lakes area. Friends of mine who now live in Germany (one in Berlin) have told me that parts of the former E. Berlin are quite fashionable neighborhoods now. Progress in Poland the Baltics (based on my own visits there) has not been nearly as pronounced.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 4:11 AM