Three-year-old Hulda puts flowers in a crack of the former Berlin Wall to commemorate the victims of the wall at the memorial site at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
When the Berlin Wall went up on August 13, 1961, U.S. diplomats watched human tragedies unfold as family members wept across barbed wire. It was unquestionably the world’s most compelling symbol of the moral and material bankruptcy of communism.
A hideous 96-mile complex of 302 watchtowers, innumerable searchlights, anti-tank obstacles, dog patrols and ditches that cut through the once bustling historic German capital was the site where at least 136 people were killed or died in other ways directly connected to the GDR border regime, including 98 people who were shot, accidentally killed, or killed themselves when they were caught trying to make it over the Wall; 30 people from both East and West who were not trying to flee but were shot or died in an accident; 8 GDR border guards who were killed while on duty by deserters, fellow border guards, fugitives, or a West Berlin police officer; and at least 251 travelers from East and West who died before, during, or after inspections at checkpoints in Berlin. These figures do not include the people who died of grief and despair over the Wall's impact on their personal lives.
On June 12 1987, Berlin celebrated its 750th anniversary. President Ronald Reagan traveled to West Berlin and issued a challenge to the leader of the Soviet Union that moved the world: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization; come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
According to accounts from the book “At Reagan's Side: Insiders' Recollections from Sacramento to the White House” by Stephen F. Knott and Jeffrey L. Chideste, President Reagan met “immense resistance from the State Department and the NSC” about using those exact words. But he insisted because it was “the right thing to do.”
His determination was spurred on when he was taken to the Reichstag and given a pair of binoculars where he could look over the wall. He saw East German police pushing the people who had come to hear him speak and it made him mad.
So, today as Berlin marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, German Chancellor Angela called it an example of the human yearning for freedom.
Incidentally, the banner that adorns this blog depicts the piece of the Berlin Wall that was donated to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in 1990 to commemorate his "unwavering dedication to humanitarianism and freedom over communism."
A Nobel Peace Prize was never awarded to the three leaders who were instrumental in advancing the cause of peace and human values—Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul and Margaret Thatcher. In 2009, less than nine months in office, The World’s Most Dangerous Community Organizer was a recipient of the award.