The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is a celebration in remembrance of the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago. The East German border opened on November 9, 1989, “heralded the collapse of the Communist system and led to German reunification less than a year later.” Twenty-five years later the German people celebrated the end of their tyranny.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared the fall of the Berlin Wall to be proof that dreams can come true. She added that the collapse of the Berlin Wall brought hope to regions where “freedom and human rights are threatened or even trampled on.”
Ms. Merkel was a child in the former East Germany; she was a 35-year-old scientist in East Berlin when the wall fell. “The Berlin Wall, this concrete-cast symbol of state despotism, brought millions of people to the edge of the endurable.”
Germans released thousands of illuminated white balloons to mark the occasion. The balloons were released at a specific time; the timing was to coincide with the “historical moment, 6:57 p.m. local time, when on Nov. 9, 1989, then-East German Politburo member Gunter Schabowski replied to a journalist’s question at a conference to the effect that the Communist state was to open its borders immediately. His response prompted hordes of Berliners to flock to and breach border crossings as East German guards stood by.”
The celebrations were a memorial to all the people who died trying to escape Communism. While 138 people are officially estimated to have died crossing the Berlin Wall, approximately 1,000 died trying to” cross the 856-mile border between the former West and East Germany.”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf was an 11-year-old boy when he and his mother escaped from East Germany together. Sixty-two years later President Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recalled his horrible experience. The family included three boys and one girl, with Dieter being the youngest child. The family planned their escape after the father learned he was about to be taken in.
President Uchtdorf described the horror he saw in his mother’s face when they came to a hill and she realized they were still in East Germany with Soviet border soldiers due at any time. She told her son, “We need to go.” He helped her repack their little bit of food, and then the two of them ran. “They ran for the hills. To the west. Toward young Dieter’s father, who would escape through West Berlin. For his brothers who fled north together. For his sister, who jumped from a moving train after paying a conductor to unlock the door while it passed through a sliver of West Germany.
“`The consequences would have been horrible for anyone left behind,” President Uchtdorf said. Communist retribution awaited any captured family member. Schooling would be withheld, professional advancement stunted. His father faced an even worse fate.
“So, alone in the hills at the edge of the Green Border – they prayed they were alone – his mother ran, as fast as she could manage, to protect young Dieter’s future.
“`We didn’t stop for a long time after we passed that crossing bar,’ he said.”
The young boy who escaped East Germany became a fighter pilot in West Germany. He was a senior vice president for Lufthansa, the West German airline, as well as a stake president in the LDS church with responsibility for numerous congregations in the Frankfurt area. He was home with his family on November 9, 1989, when they heard the news flash about the border opening. He and his son wanted to drive to Berlin to see for themselves but were unable to do so because of other responsibilities. He regrets to this day that he did not make the trip.
President Uchtdorf explained that the hardest thing about the Berlin Wall was the separation of families for so many years. Many families were divided because some of them lived in East Berlin and some of them lived in West Berlin. The Communists’ policy kept families separated. This alone qualifies as tyranny without any of the economic or political tyranny of the situation. Any time tyranny is present, there is a lack of freedom.