I remember it well. It was November 9th , my brother Steve’s birthday, 1989, when the Berlin Wall was opened so that East Germans could travel freely into West Berlin. I had taken that semester off from college in order to make enough money to continue my studies. What did I study? German and History. So, there I was, washing glasses at the bar and grill I worked at, looking up at the TV screen as one of the most significant events in German history was taking place. I was in Berlin just two summers before in June 1987, about a week before Ronald Reagan gave his famous “Tear down this wall” speech. I knew on November 9th that I’d go back again.
That was the beginning of the end for the Eastern Block countries and ultimately the Soviet Union. Everyone in the media seemed surprised at the events taking place. There was some uncertainty as to what might happen next. Would the Soviets intervene? To anyone really paying attention what happened wasn’t all that surprising. The fact was the Soviet Union was bankrupt. So was East Germany. The socialist utopians bankrupted themselves and with it destroyed the quality of life for billions of people. Could there have been military action on the part of the Soviets? Maybe, but they were tired. They didn’t have any money. Their economy was in the crapper. The other Eastern Block countries were equally or more broke than the Soviet Union. There just wasn’t anything left. The East Germans were pretty lucky because they had wealthy cousins in the West. For them there was a future and the hope of capitalism and freedom. Others would try to make their way west to find hope. And many did, here in the United States.
Now Berlin is a different city, a very beautiful and modern city. But looking back on those days I can’t help but wonder, what would have it been like if there was no West to provide that hope of capitalism and freedom? Would mankind have endured another Dark Ages? Or will it yet? We just may live find out.