August 14, 2009
Arpad Bella, the border guard who helped to bring down Iron Curtain
As Europe celebrates the 20th anniversary of the collapse of communism, politicians are scrambling to claim credit for bringing down the Iron Curtain. But Arpad Bella, a name unknown to most, has one of the strongest claims of all.
Mr Bella was the Hungarian border guard on duty at his remote crossing on August 19, 1989, when hundreds of East German refugees forced their way through it.
The first mass border breakout since the failed Hungarian revolution of 1956 accelerated a chain of events that led to the collapse of the region’s dictatorships, and the Berlin Wall crumbled in the months that followed.
Now, the pastoral scene on the narrow road out of Hungary to the Austrian village of St Margarethen belies the dramatic events that unfolded two decades ago. Locals amble back and forth between the two countries, a combine harvester trundles through the fields and the late summer sun glints on verdant meadows.
As Hungary is a member of the Schengen Zone, there are no border controls, but at the height of the Cold War this was one of the secure stretches of the Iron Curtain, patrolled by armed guards and dividing the communist regimes of the Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe from the capitalist nations of the West.
Twenty years ago in Hungary the curtain was falling, and thousands of East German refugees travelled south desperate to escape through it to a better life in the West.
The Hungarian Government had started dismantling parts of its border fortifications in May 1989, and word began to spread in East Germany that a way out could soon open up. Then Alois Mock, the Austrian Foreign Minister, and Gyula Horn, his Hungarian counterpart, symbolically cut the wire fence in June.
On the morning of August 19, East Germans filled the surrounding fields, intent on gatecrashing what was billed by Hungarian reformists as a pan-European picnic, a brief and orderly opening to the West to symbolise the Government’s commitment to better neighbourly relations. Mr Bella’s orders were to open the frontier at 3pm at a disused crossing for a short time to allow a hundred or so Austrians and Hungarians in official delegations to cross back and forth.
<Full report: see link above>
Arpad Bella suffered no repercussions for his actions, although for several days afterwards some of his colleagues avoided him. History was on his side, and his superiors, absent during those fateful hours, now claim credit for his decisions.
Mr Bella recalls with satisfaction the stories his grandparents told him about life in the Austro-Hungarian empire, when there were no borders between Hungary and Austria.
Thanks in part to his actions in August 1989, the border is once again only a memory.
Here, in Germany, it is said it was Mikhail Gorbachev [and Helmut Kohl]
who ended the Cold War and brought down the Iron Curtain.
Others give more credit to Reagan.
Or - like I do - to the Monday meetings and the people in general.
I'm sure, David, 'HoT' will tell you here.
I don't know any ... at least not more than any other politician
(Well, he did actually a lot - afterwards, IMHO - for the unification of Germany.)
Please be courteous with David, Walter,
and tell him that Helmut Kohl was the leader of Western Germany.
Quote:Well, actually the 'wall' - at least the one in Berlin, as we know it - collapsed (see the Times report, quoted above), before the USSR was "brought down".
The Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989.
The USSR ended on Christmas Eve of 1991.
Quote:Reagan brought about the end of communismThat (some) Germans don't credit Reagan (that much) for bringing down the wall has just and only to do with living on both sides of the wall. And being engaged -in the one or other way- personally, I think.
by running the communist economy into the ground.
The KGB coud not steal American weapons technology fast enuf to keep up.
The important point is the Wall was brought down, and it would be quite a shame for Germans or any other nationality to make the mistake of advocating the ideology that led to its erection.
Merkel expresses thanks to Hungary on opening Iron Curtain
Sat, 15 Aug 2009 10:11:42 GMT
Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday expressed thanks to Hungary for its opening of its border with Austria 20 years ago, triggering the start of the collapse of communism in Europe. In her weekly video address, Merkel commented on the "Pan European Picnic" of August 19, 1989 when part of the border fence separating Hungary from Austria was opened, with hundreds of East Germans immediately taking the chance to flee to the west.
"This made the opening of The Wall irreversible," Merkel said, referring to the main symbol of Europe's - and Germany's - post-war division, the Berlin Wall.
Merkel is to visit Hungary next Wednesday to mark the 20th anniversary occasion.
"My trip is a thank-you to Hungary - to the people who live there and also to those who were then responsible," she said, referring to Hungary's then-communist rulers who permitted the border opening. They had shown courage and foresight and thereby had accelerated the cause of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, Merkel added.
"Today we have the task of assuring that young people who live in freedom and are growing up with free borders, should know that this freedom must be fought for," said Merkel, who 20 years ago was herself a citizen of then-communist East Germany.
Merkel and Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai are to participate jointly in the August 19 anniversary festivities. In the town of Sopron the German chancellor will meet with eyewitnesses to the events then. That evening, she is to attend a concern with Hungarian President Lazlo Solyom.
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
The important point is the Wall was brought down,
and it would be quite a shame for Germans or any other nationality
to make the mistake of advocating the ideology that led to its erection.
I've just thought that I know/knew personally well persons who
- thought, everything was better in the German empire,
- said that not everything was so bad under Hitler's regime,
- want to good old order and times of the SED back.
(Not very surprisingly, no-one talked about the Weimar republic time.)
Though I think that it's somehow part of human nature to remember the past
mainly as "good old times", it's quite dangerous and very dishonest to disregard
some major points of those periods, I think.
U bring out an interesting point, Walter.
Will u reveal your thoughts n opinions of the Weimar Republic
as viewed from the time of the 3rd Reich?
I imagine that it was viewed positively as a time of less danger
from government and more personal freedom
and viewed negatively for its currency inflation.
Woud u comment upon my vu that
as to that inflation, clearly the Germans were playing a good joke
on the Allies by wiping out the Germans' war debt to the Allies.
That gave the Germans reason for alarm n misery in their personal finances,
tho reason for glee, as to defeating their foe.
I wonder how the average German citizens felt about the Weimar Republic
as the War turned against Germany and forced their army into retreat ?
Did thay see the Weimar Republic as being the good old days ?
or maybe thay longed for Germany as it was before 1914 ?
I think we can safely assume that Germany
( and everywhere else in the civilized world )
woud have been a lot different if the Kaiser had been a less aggressive fellow.
Your people suffered a lot during the 20th Century.
How is the Kaiser viewed by Germans today ?