Germany marks anniversary of fall of Berlin Wall
November 9, 1997
Web posted at: 2:12 p.m. EST (1912 GMT)
BERLIN (CNN) -- German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on Sunday
marked the eighth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall
by urging all Germans no to forget the victims of "Communist
Party dictatorship." The exhortation came amid efforts by
artists and citizens to preserve the last remnants of the
wall as a monument to modern German history.
"We should not forget the victims of the Communist Party
dictatorship or belittle their suffering," Kohl said Sunday.
He hailed the fall of the wall on November 9, 1989, as an
epochal upheaval marking the end of East Germany's Communist
regime, the end of the Cold War, and the beginning of a new
era for the world.
Kohl praised the process of German re-unification and
integration, saying that "thanks to our combined efforts,
German unity is a living reality today."
East Germany's Communist government erected the Berlin Wall
in August 1961. The wall fell after weeks of massive
anti-government protests on November 9, 1989. The fall of the
Berlin Wall is often described as the "End of the Cold War."
East German border guards shot 77 people who tried to escape
to the West over the wall during the course of its existence.
But not everyone agreed with that assessment. Reinhard
Hoppner, the Social Democratic head of Germany's
north-eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, said there is still a
major divide between former East and West German citizens,
often nourished by preconceptions and prejudices.
He said the divide no longer followed the line of the Berlin
Wall but was defined instead by the division between "the
poor and the rich, between those who have a job and those who
Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen -- marking the start of the
construction of a monument to commemorate those who died at
the Berlin Wall -- also called on Germans not to forget the
history of the former two Germanys.
He said that while a debate about inter-German relations may
be difficult and unpleasant, it is necessary to discuss that
historic period in order to keep alive people's awareness of
Church leaders echoed similar concerns Sunday and criticized
that western Germany increasingly appeared to lose interest
in the difficulties and problems in eastern Germany.
Senior evangelical church leader Manfred Kock warned that an
attitude of "we helped them enough, now they have to fight
for themselves" was increasingly prevalent in former West
But another call for help in Berlin recently has focused on
the very symbol of Cold War division: the Berlin Wall itself.
Artist Kani Alavi is among those who have been fighting a
battle to save the two kilometers of the wall that still
Alavi's painting is part of Berlin's East Side Gallery, a
series of murals lining the longest stretch of the remaining
He holds politicians responsible for ignoring the
disappearance of what, in his view, should be a monument
saved to preserve history for coming generations.
"It was a very brutal, very cruel thing that happened back
then," Alavi says about the historic and tragic events played
out along the wall. "But our politicians try to cover it up
now. They don't want to talk about it. It's just like Nazis.
After the Nazis, they tried not to talk about the problem any
more. And now we have the same situation."
While German corporations such as air carrier Lufthansa and
car manufacturer Daimler-Benz have made some donations to
preserve the wall, Alavi insists it is the government's
responsibility to finance its upkeep. And that upkeep is
urgently needed as recent studies have suggested the gallery
may collapse within two years due to wind, rain and
plundering by souvenir hunters.
A key factor for the rapid disappearance of the wall has been
real estate development, which boomed after the wall and its
surrounding fortifications were cleared away. Berlin's Senate
recently voted to tear down another two sections of the wall
gallery in order to make room for the construction of a
"The government cannot do everything in this city -- there is
too much to be done in Berlin," said senate spokesman Eduard
But Berlin District Mayor Helios Mendiburu disagrees. "People
died trying to escape from the wall. If it's only to remember
those people who lost their lives and who died at the wall, I
think that is reason enough to preserve the memory of the
Correspondent Mary Pflum contributed to this report.