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Reflecting on Berlin

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I was in the 8th grade in November of 1989, and I don’t think that the fall of the Berlin Wall had any immediate impact on my thinking at the time. I don’t remember if I watched the coverage on TV, or if there were any big discussions of the event in school during the following days. I was a history buff back then, to be sure – I still am – but I don’t think that I was engaged in contemplating the big issues of human liberty and individual rights at the time. Divided Berlin was simply a fact of life, and the source of interesting cold war tidbits like the story of the Candy Bomber during the Berlin Airlift, and the site of a Harlem Globetrotters game in early 1988 on ABC’s Wide World of Sports that I videotaped and watched again and again.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve had more time to reflect on the importance of human freedom and the evils of totalitarianism, and I’ve noted my tendency to take my freedom for granted. Over the last few weeks, as the anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall moved closer, I’ve had opportunity to take a fresh look at the history of divided Berlin, and the rise and fall of the barrier between the eastern and western sectors of that city. As I watched again the footage of jubilant Berliners streaming through the suddenly-opened gates, dancing atop the wall, embracing each other and weeping for joy, it occurred to me that the event seemed as if it had never really happened; after all, how can it be possible that during my lifetime, Berlin – now an utterly modern and cosmopolitan city – had been artificially divided in two with tyrannical rulers forbidding the residents of one half access to the other? Looking back from my 2009 perspective, it hardly seems real.

Rev. Robert A. Sirico - October 29, 2009
Rev. Robert A. Sirico - October 29, 2009
And yet here we are, already 20 years removed from one of the most spectacular links in the chain of events that culminated in the fall of communism in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

This year, the Acton Institute celebrated its 19th anniversary. At the dinner in celebration of that milestone, Rev. Robert A. Sirico – President and Co-Founder of the Acton Institute – gave an address that celebrated the great events of November 9, 1989, but also reminded us that the freedoms that we so often take for granted remain at risk in many ways. You can listen to his address using the audio player below.

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Additional links:
Murderous Idealism
The Red Plague

Marc Vander Maas


  • D.M.

    I was born in 1945. I was fortunate enough to learn what communism was, i.e., its operating protocols (dialectical dishonesty and maaterialist anti-morality), before the veil of “liberal tolerance” mushed it into “just another political party” or “socialism, but _for_ the _people_”. I lost faith that the truth about marxist-leninism would survive. Thanks to the Hoover Institute’s journal “Problems with Communism”, Dr. Schwarz’ “Christian Anti-CommunisM Crusade”, Lee’s “Communism – Critique and Counter-Proposal”, and a large tome on the “eschatology” of communism, and others, there were always a few people aware of the inhuman methods and head-in-the-clouds approach to society, possessed by the vanguard of the proletariat as they populated schools, media, and government.

    For me, the “fall” of the Berlin Wall was a miracle. The horrors of allowing people to bleed to death between the barriers, the air-lift (should have been a tank-drive!), murderous seduction of the young, assassination of the elderly, political corruption, destruction of labor and industry, theft of farms, the subterfuge, lies, broken families.

    Now “all is forgiven,” “everything’s fine.” Or is it? The horrors of communism are not thought about, despite the tens of millions who suffered and died under the inhuman, dare I say godless, substitute for reality. But all is not tolerance and love and brotherhood. A general mistrust of Germans remains in the minds of some ill-informed; an ethnic hate, in some hearts; and no forgiveness for communism’s weaker, less successful, less murderous cousin (1930s-40s National-Socialism).

    I think it will be a greater miracle for people to bring down the wall of ignorance (regarding the detailed, honest histories and relative worth and damnation of marxist-leninist-communism and hitlerist-strasserist-national-socialism). Many westerners still see communism through liberal, rose-tinted glasses and National Socialism through the dark-glasses of liberal intolerance. Both views are wrong because they are based on lies and anachronisms.

    (I await the fall of the death-zone that is the Korean DMZ.)

  • sini ngindu bindanda

    I studied in missionary school the sixties and at the beginning of the seventies. Many times they used to show Us that Communist was a hindrance to self developpment. And we also were convinced that their speech was a purified golden AND we considered IT such as. Overthrow the communism was almost the target and aspectations of many peoples specially in the Westernian countries and even in Communist countries themselves. Though all of us we aspected a big change which should free all the nations to get involved in process of individual developpment and of the Community as commun duty to not repeat myself. In so many countries, specially those under developped, all leader who was suspected to belong to that block I mean communist should be overthrown by a state puch and put another good student at his place. Which arrived in many countries puting in power those who were to the side of Westernian countries with the American in leadership even though the new comer was not prepared to assume such high responsabilities. We assisted to that until just the fallen of the wall in 1989 even decades after that if not until today. Curiosily, some countries, better two capitals with the same name are the two closest capitals of the world. One was and still is pro capitaliste with scandalously rechness in his soil under soil of his country while another one very small but not much rich. The smallest communist people was free comparativly to the capitalist. In that process could be open and anybody could attend it if wanted to. Concerning the standing live of the people, the communist one was payed far beyond better than the richest one and in controll of the the capitalism power. In the communist the conditions of the life and the work were acceptable and some could easily notice the difference between both. Finally those who installed that pro regime started to notice that he no longer obeyed to their orders and started qualifying it “dictator regime”, forgeting that they installed it and sustained it during more than three decades. To overthrow that regime they now see embarrassing and disobbedient to their interests, they used neghbor armies to overthrow, what they did but killing millions and millions of people. They never proved to allow that country to become independant and democracy as they pretended to let it believe to the people and to the International Community. What they did is to occupy the country by the neigbor countries they used and by Mission of the United Nations as pretext “Interposition Mission”, which continues to do other thing then that. At the countrary they allienated that country until the people lost the hope to once day see the freedom.
    What does mean that or what are we saying? During the communist regime, Capitalist countries used to hide themselves behind the communist, to say that communist was dictatorship, negation of the human right and human rights. Now that the wall has fallen the Westernian countries non longer can theyselves hide, because there is no longer the tree (communism” where some can hide himself and justify his crimes. We have realised that even in the Westernian contexst, many walls of separation are being conctructed in many varied aspects of the life and many countries. Curiosly they to one hand the destroy wall ad at onother hand they construct onother. Where is the significante of celebration the the fallen Wall? Who loughs to who? Even those who used to wave the human right as the flag, to brand, that flag also has failed since the communist failed. It clearly sims that the human right was collegated to communist. Failed the Wall, failed the human right, those who took the Communism as their donkey of battle, are now seen to everybody that trully the true wall is what they build themselves, the so called the winners.
    At my age I can realise that today no one of the concurrent groups for hegemonia and geopolitics in the presence, none of them has again something to say dealing with the human right or human rights, in the sense objective of the term. Now the language changed. The language,to justify the tortures is “we have to protect ourselves”. It was the same language used by the dictatorship regimes of the past time , time that now we seem to celebrate the victory.
    According to me the fall of the wall of Berlin did not change any thing for the people who knew the dictatorship and who had the expectation to see the really change. Excpet may be German and Pologna.
    As to say with Ecclesiastes: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun” (Eccl. 1: 9). As to say we assist at perpetual rebeginning of :”Get out in this place so that I get your place”.
    Yesteday you used to condamne the negation of human right and human rights in a large scale and you are giving the same justifications that you refused to another to justify the torture, limitation of liberty of expression, the secret of correspondance, liberty of meeting at any moment at any time. That is what the World is and what it shall ever be.
    I must apologize for poor English.

    Thank you!