Foreign Minister Steinmeier on the Fall of the Berlin Wall 25 Years Ago

Today, we are paying tribute to the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago in a truly historical place:

It is from here, in the extension to the Reichsbank – built during the time of the National Socialists – that Hitler’s Germany funded its terrible war of annihilation.

In the time of the GDR (1959), the building served as the headquarters of the Central Committee of the SED regime and was thus the control centre of power. This is where the terrible regime was planned, developed and managed.

For three decades, in this very room – the Politburo’s conference room until 1989 – Ulbricht, Honecker, Mielke and many more quite literally decided life and death.

This is where the construction of the Berlin Wall was set in motion in 1961, this is where court judgements were harshened, people were made political prisoners or deprived of their citizenship, this is where literature was banned and culture censored, this is where the inhumane border regime was adopted, which was so brutally implemented up to the very last minute, to the cost of so many innocent victims.

A Central Committee Meeting in 1989 Enlarge image A meeting of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party and the Free German Youth in the waning months of 1989. (© picture-alliance /ZB) And then – looking out of the window of this room – in autumn 1989, the hardliners of the regime could see that they had lost their fight against their own people. This is where they officially stamped off on a development which, in any case, could no longer be stopped and which had already outrun them:

On 9 November 1989, the Politburo drafted the “transitional regulation on journeys out of and permanent emigration from the GDR”. All that was needed after that was an unconventional interpretation of this decision in response to a question from a foreign journalist and, as we say, the rest is history!

The Wall, this disgrace which divided Berlin and Germany for 28 long years, had come down. The division of Germans in both states came to an end!

Since then a fresh wind has blown the cobwebs of the decades of totalitarianism from the building: on 20 September 1990, the MPs in the first freely elected People’s Chamber of the GDR voted in favour of the treaty on the reunification of Germany.

We are both pleased and grateful that the people in East Germany brought down the Berlin Wall with such great courage and heroic effort, before going on to sweep away the GDR regime within a few months.

Their courage and desire for freedom gives us a responsibility towards the future, in particular here in this place.

Our friends, partners and allies in the whole world celebrated the fall of the Wall, alongside and with us.

We are pleased and grateful that a divided Germany could be reunified with the blessing of all of our neighbours and partners.

We are proud that German unity was also the prelude to the reunification of Europe. Today, ten Central and East European neighbours are our partners and allies in the European Union and NATO.

We are pleased that, together, we have been able to enjoy over 20 good years of peace, freedom and growing prosperity in Europe.

We are grateful that history can also have a happy ending.

Bismarck Zimmer Enlarge image The "Bismarck Zimmer" is now where the leadership of the Foreign Office meets each morning. (© photothek / Foreign Office) And this also applies to the room in which we are now: this building has been the Federal Foreign Office’s home since Berlin became the seat of the Federal Government once again.

It is here in this room – where, until as recently as 25 years ago, a repressive regime worked to cement its power – that the leadership of the Federal Foreign Office meets each morning for the directors’ meeting.

The foreign policy of a reunited Germany is decided in this room – a foreign policy that seeks to promote peace and understanding among nations and strives to fight precisely against the sort of injustice and oppression that, for decades, was perpetrated from this building.

When we set the course of German foreign policy today, we call to mind the images of people embracing each other on the Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate on 9 November 1989.

It is a foreign policy for a people that, as we read in the Preamble to the German Basic Law, is inspired by the desire to “promote world peace in a united Europe”.

I am proud that, 25 years after the fall of the Wall and the tearing down of the Iron Curtain, I have the privilege to play my part in this German foreign policy at the heart of Europe.

(copyright: Auswärtiges Amt)

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A plaque marks the former location of the Berlin Wall.

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