University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


German voice in Europe needed

Former politicians Uffe Ellemann-Jensen and Richard von Weizsäcker discussed the fall of the Berlin Wall and its aftermath

It was on October 9, 20 years ago that we understood that the communist system was at its end, recalled former German president Richard von Weizsäcker.

It was then that 17,000 protesters took to the streets in Leipzig. A revolution was about to take place, and the German writer Thomas Mann, who had said that Germans were incapable of participating in a revolution, was proven wrong.

It was to remember October 9, 1989, that the University of Copenhagen and the Foreign Policy Society hosted a discussion between former Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen and Richard von Weizsäcker to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Fell like dominoes

The event took place in the Ceremonial Hall at Frue Plads. Prorector Lykke Friis moderated the discussion.

On this day, 20 years ago, millions on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain displayed their disapproval through their voices and their feet, and the communist states fell like dominoes from Warsaw to Prague. And they did so peacefully.

»Those who neglect the past are blind to the present,« Prorector Lykke Friis said in her opening remarks.

Turned out to be inevitable

It was an apt introduction to a discussion of the the consequences of the unification on Germany and Europe today. The peaceful unfolding of events in 1989 was decisive, Ellemann and Weizsäcker agreed.

It resulted in the ‘healing’ of Germany, and the acceptance of a unified Germany in Europe – none of which was certain. Weizsäcker stressed that «the contribution of the peaceful coming down of the wall, and Gorbachev’s order for Soviet troops to stay in their barracks, is immense and should never be forgotten«.

Furthermore, Weizsäcker emphasized the responsible behaviour of the German people. The result of the revolutions: For the first time in history Germany was surrounding by friends. »Or at least I hope,« Weizsäcker chuckled.

»I did not know if I would be alive when it came down, but it was unimaginable that the wall could have prevailed. It was inevitable,« he recalled.

German voice is needed

Never in their wildest imaginations had Weizsäcker and Ellemann, both in office in 1989, thought that the wall would crumble so quickly.

On November 9, 1989 »that stupid, terrible wall came down,« Weizsâcker explained, (and it was) »due to the courage of ordinary people«.

Looking forward, both Ellemann and Weizsacker stressed Europe’s importance in solving the climate, economical and security challenges across the world. Ellemann said he hoped to see a thus far reserved, accommodating Germany instead lead a ‘leaderless’ Europe.

»Obama is looking for a European voice« Ellemann exclaimed, »Thomas Mann said that to avoid a German Europe, we have to create a European Germany. But today we have a German Germany. I have become an admirer of the strong German democracy. Your voice is needed!«