Berlin centerIt should be something new this year, something smaller, decentralized, more thoughtful – and in the end it was the same as usual: The stage show on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Saturday evening in front of the Brandenburg Gate was bursting at the seams. Thousands of people strayed in the early evening in spite of increasingly friendly autumn weather in a large arc around the Brandenburg Gate around.
In search of an entrance to the festival site, where you did not have to queue for at least an hour at the fences reinforced check points. Most probably in vain. For example, Dirk Michaelis, Anno Loos, Die ZOllner, Trettmann, Zuzuger Masculin and the Staatskapelle Berlin played in front of tens of thousands who somehow made it to the fan mile west of the Brandenburg Gate – quite a few remained in the true sense of the word Zaungaste.
Crowd at the Brandenburg Gate enormous
It then came, as it always happens when the Brandenburg Gate is celebrated: Several entrances to the festival grounds had to be closed early, according to the police, including the entrances to the Ebertstrabe and on the side of the Reichstag building. The crowd was too big – even if there is still room on the site itself. Which meant that at all other entrances it was agonizingly slow.
At the S-Bahn station Brandenburger Tor there were restrictions before the show started. By order of the Federal Police were because of too much pressure the entrances and exits Wilhelmstrasse and Pariser Platz close. By contrast, the stubby Chancellor U-Bahn U55, which was never actually used by Berliners, remained in operation.
Whether the decentralized concept had worked out after the major events five years ago (fairy lights on the former wall strip in the city center) or ten years ago (state guests threw brick wall replicas like dominoes), must at least with regard to the congestion at the Brandenburg Gate open stay.
To play several places was a successful idea
The idea was to stretch the festival of the peaceful revolution this time and to play in several places that played no role in the night of the nights 30 years ago (motto: 7 days – 7 places), but in any case. Whether at Alexanderplatz, where passers-by on Saturday relaxedly filmed the video installations projected onto the Behrens buildings with their cell phones; or in the Sony Center on Potsdamer Platz, where the crowd bobbed to the sounds of a rock band full of old men – the city was up late into the evening.
It was Mayor and Culture Senator Klaus Lederer (left), who had previously eloquently explained, as always, why there should not be the one, big break at the 30th this time. But, one wanted to celebrate, said Lederer again and again, but not as carefree as in the previous round anniversaries of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Too much is currently piling up to happily cut across the national pudding: Populism, Pegida and AfD in this country, Trump, the Brexit and the rise of several autocrats elsewhere, so Lederer.
Steinmeier: Democracy must not be mocked
So no big gestures and one or the other political speech but it should not go this time. At the opening ceremony at the Brandenburg Gate, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed to people everywhere in the country to tear down new walls in society. The Berlin Wall was indeed gone. But in Germany, "new walls were created, walls of frustration, walls of anger and hatred, walls of speechlessness and alienation." Every person in the country could help to tear them down again. "We must not allow people to be marginalized and attacked", that democracy is ridiculed.
Governing Mayor Michael Muller (SPD) called for defending the values of peace, freedom and democracy. One must oppose thereby "Populisten, which spread hate and Hetze", against. Muller reminded at the same time of the victims of the SED dictatorship and the people in the former GDR, who fought for their freedom. The peaceful revolution was an incredible achievement that required great courage. He had said the same thing almost word for word the day before at a ceremony in the House of Representatives. But also by repetition, such a statement is not wrong.
Short moment of silence at the Brandenburg Gate
And there was also (at least) a strong moment at the Brandenburg Gate: Marianne Birthler, former East German civil rights activist and later commissioner for the Stasi documents, provided a brief moment of silence on the festival grounds. The moment of silence was to commemorate those whose lives were destroyed by the SED dictatorship or who lost their lives. It reminded those who came to Soviet penal camps that were denied secondary education, supervised, imprisoned or betrayed by the Stasi, or killed at the border. But she also thinks of those who betrayed and suffered under this burden today, according to Birthler.
And that's not all: only those would have the moral right to appeal to the peaceful revolution of the autumn of 1989, which today advocate openness and freedom. "Those who let their hatred run wild and threaten others with words and deeds are no better than the Stasi, who destroyed and destroyed human lives." What Birthler meant was clear: she did not want to let the AfD take over the peaceful revolution for herself. Only too well are still the campaigns for the Brandenburg election in September in mind, as the right-wing populists, among other things, "finishing the turn" placated.
Roses and candles
Already in the morning, several hundred people had thought of the victims of the Wall at the central commemoration ceremony on the former death strip on Bernauer Strasse. Federal President Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) stuck flowers in the hinterland wall. To commemorate the courage of the GDR opposition in autumn 1989, candles were lit – symbols of nonviolent resistance in the GDR.
Foreign guests such as the Presidents of Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, contemporary witnesses and students participated in the celebrations in the Central Wall Memorial. Steinmeier thanked people in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland for their contribution to reunification. Without their courage and freedom, for example, German unity would not have been possible, he said. Unlike in previous years, no head of state or government had traveled from one of the four World War II Allies.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called on a devotion in the Chapel of Reconciliation to resolutely oppose hatred, racism and anti-Semitism. The 9th of November was a fateful day for the Germans, and with the November pogroms of 1938 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, they are the "most terrible and happiest moments in German history," said Merkel. At the same time, the Chancellor called on people not to be discouraged. "No wall that excludes people and limits freedom is so high or so wide that it can not be broken." (With dpa)