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German Consul General on the fall of the wall 20 years later

Tuesday 18 May, 2010

The Niagara Foundation hosted another luncheon speech, featuring Onno Hückmann, Counsel General of Germany in Chicago, who spoke about the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years after the fact.  He still considers it a miracle that such a radical change occurred with the use of no military force.  He also noted it was the 1st global mass media event.  The wall literally fell overnight without a decision from the top.  He called it a peaceful revolutionary process fueled by discontent & economic forces.  East & West Germans met in Hungary & crossed over into Austria.  The majority of East Germans had very little, which is what led to change.  It all started @ a church in Leipzig where the gatherers demanded & marched weekly for change & it spread, shouting “We are 1 people!”  The Stasi were not given orders to shoot.

This event was a change without precedent.  Change was already underway in Poland, following Lech Walensa.  Hungary was being cut free.  The USSR was focusing on glasnost & perestroika.  Germany’s neighbors expressed concerns about its reunification, but consent was secured regardless, even in NATO, despite Russia.  It was the finest hour in German-US friendship.  It was a peaceful change, achieved by being flexible & firm.  We need to recognize how precious freedom is-we’ll never know how many victims died trying to escape the Berlin Wall.

We now need a new vision for the future.  We’re in uncharted waters.  All dogmas have been banished.  It’s all gray now.

Q&A

  • There was no premonition of what it would cost to unify-they tab is now 8TR Euros to date.  Germans still pay a Solidarity Tax of 70 Euros/month.
  • East Germany did not disappear-it’s better to think of it as a merger.
  • The Korean peninsula is a very different situation & not comparable to East & West Germany 20 years ago.
  • Vladimir Putin was  a spy in East Berlin when the wall fell.
  • His daughter has friends from the east, so the differences between east & west are fading, although there are still differences.
  • Erich Honecker not placing an order to shoot was a reflection of weakness in being unprepared for what happened.  They did not understand the enormity of their decisions & lacked confirmation of what was happening.  They were badly organized, so actually all that happened occurred by accident.
  • Capitalism is difficult because different things change every day.  Communism is easier by comparison.  This has resulted in more than just economic progress-East Germans couldn’t even get passports to travel.  There have been huge investments in new industries in Dresden & Leipzig.
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