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20 years ago: the man who "really" brought down the Iron Curtain

 
 
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 01:12 am
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.

Quote:
The Times
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.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 7 • Views: 3,621 • Replies: 29
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talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 01:17 am
Lech Walenza(?) the Polish labor leader might have beenhelped as well as the late Pope John Paul II who backed Walenza.
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 01:39 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:

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.



What was Helmut Kohl's contribution ?
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 03:38 am
@OmSigDAVID,
I'm sure, David, 'HoT' will tell you here.

I don't know any ... at least not more than any other politician Wink
(Well, he did actually a lot - afterwards, IMHO - for the unification of Germany.)
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 08:46 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:

I'm sure, David, 'HoT' will tell you here.

I don't know any ... at least not more than any other politician Wink
(Well, he did actually a lot - afterwards, IMHO - for the unification of Germany.)
Unification was good.
Maybe he gave his permission to tear down the Berlin Wall?
It was torn down from its western side.





David
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 01:00 pm
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

Unification was good.
Maybe he gave his permission to tear down the Berlin Wall?
It was torn down from its western side.


David
[/quote]

Yes, the unification wasn't a bad thing at all.

I doubt that Kohl gave 'permission' to tear down the wall: it was, of course, erected on GDR-ground, done - from late 1989 onwards, but especially in mid-1990 - from East as well as West Berliners. - The main part was done by souvenir hunters (with all the "original stones from the Berlin Wall" sold since those days, you easily could build two new Berlin Walls, at least two, I think.)
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 03:47 pm

It was built during the Kennedy Adminstration.
The commies knew that he was too cowardly to resist.

Certainly the East Berliners had more personal incentive to tear it down.
I remember them (including old ladies) leaping out of the windows
of nearby apartment buildings to jump over the wall to get to freedom.
The Reds tore down all the buildings nearby to stop that.

Trucks crashed thru the wall to get to freedom,
with communist border guards firing automatic weapons at them, as thay escaped.
Talk about desperation. It took courage to do that.

I felt ineffably good and relieved on Christmas Day of 1993
when the USSR ended; thay took down the Red hammer n sickle flag
on Christmas Eve from atop the Kremlin. I remember that I was flying
home from Las Vegas. When I got on the plane, the USSR still existed
and when I got off the plane in NY, the USSR had passed down
thru the bowels of history, to rest together with the swastika.

I was very elated and relieved.





David
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  2  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 08:24 pm
Please be courteous with David, Walter, and tell him that Helmut Kohl was the leader of Western Germany.
gungasnake
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 08:37 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
You might could claim it was Charlie Wilson...

For my money the main factor was ordinary communist bureaucrats getting into European shopping malls like Marienplatze and seeing ordinary European middle class people buying things which the aparatchiki themselves could not own under the commie system.
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 09:45 pm
@fbaezer,
fbaezer wrote:

Please be courteous with David, Walter,
and tell him that Helmut Kohl was the leader of Western Germany.

I did not forget that fact.
I did not question what office he held.
I read about him ofen enuf in the paper around that time,
but I still do not know HOW he allegedly
"brought down the Iron Curtain."


Maybe U will be COURTEOUS enuf to tell us how he did that.





David
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 11:48 pm
I'm not surprised that Germans don't want to credit Reagan for bringing down the Wall.

Banal but corrupt communist technocrats and deluded communist strongmen were probably the most responsible for bringing down the Iron Curtain because they were most responsible for bringing down the Soviet Union from within.

American presidents that forced them to spend themselves into oblivion by not backing down in the Cold War certainly helped, but the whole lousy system was filled with rot and collapse was inevitable.

The more the State controls, the more that spins out of control. When the State controls everything, collapse is imminent.

Something Americans should keep in mind.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 11:53 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
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".

That (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.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 12:19 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Well, actually Walter I would hope that you understand that whether the Wall coming down was part of the Soviet Union's fall or took place after the precise moment that historians have pinpointed as the collapse, is pretty immaterial as respects who was "really" responsible for its coming down.

That (some) Germans don't credit Reagan (that much) for bringing down the wall doesn't surprise me either.

I understand the concept of gratitude, but I also understand the concept of nationalistic pride.

If any German wants to think that they, or some lone Hungarian border guard, were primarily responsible for bringing down the Wall, good for them. It doesn't really matter as far as the true historical picture goes, and if it makes them feel better, what's the harm?

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.
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 12:21 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:

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".

Very clearly.
The Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989.
The USSR ended on Christmas Eve of 1991.



Quote:
That (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.
Reagan brought about the end of communism
by running the communist economy into the ground.
The KGB coud not steal American weapons technology fast enuf to keep up.





David
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 12:29 am
@Finn dAbuzz,
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.


Yeap.

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.

Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 04:32 am
Quote:
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.
Source: dpa via EarthTimes
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 09:51 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:

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.


Yeap.

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.
Comment ?

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 ?

Perhaps Thomas might be interested
in contributing his thoughts on these questions ?





David
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 10:07 am
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:
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.
Comment ?

David


I was too young to speak about that with my (maternal) grandfather - who was a 'liberal' (European kind = libertarian) during the Weimar times (and after the war.
All I know from him was that he didn't like the Nazis at all (and was quite in open dissent with them. That was possible, because it was just a rather small town of about 10,000 inhabitants - but difficult, because he was -though still a member of the Catholic church- opposed to religion as well)
He died when I was ten years old, before I knew more to ask him.

My other (maternal) relatives seemed to have been like many other Germans I know: thinking that all has been better under the emperor, and Hitler gave back some security ...


Father's father was very active in (local) politics: president of a local council for the "Zentrum" ('centre', a Catholic centrist party), until 1933 (different, larger town). He died due to some illnesses he got as POW in 1947.

I know about his attitude mainly by what my father told, by looking through local papers of that period and by a few letters I've got.
He was a democrat.


Well, coming back to your question: I'm not that sure that the Weimar period was seen possitive by most, at least not by those who experienced all the three periods: in memory, the Weimar period was filled with various battles (between the left the Nazi SA and earlier by various 'revolutions' between 1918 and 1923): they vividly remember the inflation (thus, most elderly kept their money their life long only as cash or on a normal bank account) and the time when millions were jobless ...

Besides that: democracy came too fast for most.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 10:09 am
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

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.
David


Well, that certainly seems to have been a quite common view - and this was used by nearly all parties from the left to the right, but especially by right parties, as THE argument for .... whatever.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 10:17 am
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

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 ?

David


I think that I answered abit to the first question here already in my above posts.
Not many saw the Weimar period as 'those good old days' - that was more the time under the emperors.

And I don't think that people from that period really thought the emperor to have been an agressive person - but my impression might be from a too narrow perspective.

The Kaiser today? You make excursions to the various memorials, view points, towers etc ... because they are tourist attractions.
You go to pubs/restaurants in the 1900 style, because they are "in" (actually 'were in').
History, which you still might find in some homes as in old photos, furniture and so on, but nothing like that you want the Kaiser (or the monarchy) back.

0 Replies
 
 

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