1989 was the year of the major revolutions for freedom in Europe. We have the courageous citizens in the then GDR to thank for the fact that a European freedom revolution came to pass: with their calls of “no violence”, “we are the people”, “we are one people”, they turned a new page in the history of freedom in Europe and Germany. This time, Germans were on the right side when freedom was at stake.
History such as this is only brought to life by recounting the recollections of the individual. Because the historic process of that year came to pass in the fate of individuals. Support for liberty and civil rights came in many forms.
The refugees in the German embassies of the socialist states of Europe contributed in their way to ensuring that Europe and Germany could be peacefully reunited. They made it possible for Hungary to open the borders to the West on 10 September 1989 – at that time in the face of vigorous protest from East Berlin. And on 30 September the gates of the embassy in Prague opened outwards. This time with the agreement of the GDR government. This was a historic volte-face that was to become an unmistakable signal. The era of the Wall drew to a close. In this way, the refugees in the embassy in Prague wrote history, peaceful history. Just how difficult this was is evident in the recollections of Hermann Huber, our ambassador to Czechoslovakia at the time. I wish to expressly thank him, his French wife and all staff at the embassy, together with the members of the German Red Cross involved for their humanity and motivation. The German embassies in the socialist nations of Europe did all they could to enable their German compatriots to leave. Requested by East Berlin to close our embassies, I replied that I was not willing to see the Wall extended to block our embassies.
You will all understand when I say that the struggle at that time on the fringe of the UN General Assembly in New York to gain the agreement of the GDR government to open the embassy in Prague, together with my visit to the embassy and the announcement of the permission to leave on the evening of 30 September were among the most impressive and moving experiences in my many years of work as a member of the German federal government. Western politicians created the framework. It was the Germans of the GDR that brought the Wall down.
Bonn, July 2009
Former German Federal Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher