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11/12/2009

Before...and after...the fall of the Wall

Speech by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to a Joint Session of Congress, Nov. 3, 2009.

[Excerpts]
 
Angela Merkel: 

I am the second German Chancellor on whom this honor [addressing the U.S. Congress] has been bestowed. The first was Konrad Adenauer when he addressed both Houses of Congress in 1957, albeit one after the other. 

Our lives could not have been more different. In 1957 I was just a small child of three years. I lived with my parents in Brandenburg, a region that belonged to the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the part of Germany that was not free. My father was a Protestant pastor. My mother, who had studied English and Latin to become a teacher, was not allowed to work in her chosen profession in the GDR. 

In 1957 Konrad Adenauer was already 81 years old. He had lived through the German Empire, the First World War, the Weimar Republic and the Second World War. The National Socialists ousted him from his position as mayor of the city of Cologne. After the war, he was among the men and women who helped build up the free, democratic Federal Republic of Germany. 

Nothing is more symbolic of the Federal Republic of Germany than its constitution, the Basic Law, or “Grundgesetz”. It was adopted exactly 60 years ago. Article 1 of the Grundgesetz proclaims, and I quote, “Human dignity shall be inviolable”. This short, simple sentence – “Human dignity shall be inviolable” – was the answer to the catastrophe that was the Second World War, to the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust, to the hate, destruction and annihilation that Germany brought upon Europe and the world. 

November 9th is just a few days away. It was on November 9, 1989 that the Berlin Wall fell and it was also on November 9 in 1938 that an indelible mark was branded into Germany’s memory and Europe’s history. On that day the National Socialists destroyed synagogues, setting them on fire, and murdered countless people. It was the beginning of what led to the break with civilization, the Shoah. I cannot stand before you today without remembering the victims of this day and of the Shoah. 

And I cannot stand before you today without mentioning how grateful I am for the presence of one guest, who personally experienced the horror of National Socialism in Germany and whom I recently met personally: Professor Fritz Stern. 

He was born in 1926 in what was then the German city of Breslau and today is the Polish city of Wroclaw. He and his family were able to escape the Nazi regime in 1938 and flee to the United States. In his autobiography, published in 2006 under the title “Five Germanys I Have Known,” Fritz Stern describes the moment of his arrival in New York’s harbor in 1938, a haven of freedom and security. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is wonderful that history willed that we should both – the twelve-year-old boy who was driven out of Germany and me, the Chancellor of reunited Germany who was born in the GDR – be here in this distinguished House. This fills me with great joy and deep gratitude. 

Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined, twenty years ago before the Wall fell, that this would happen. It was beyond imagination then to even think about traveling to the United States of America let alone standing here today. 

The land of unlimited opportunity – for a long time it was impossible for me to reach. The Wall, barbed wire and the order to shoot those who tried to leave limited my access to the free world. So I had to create my own picture of the United States from films and books, some of which were smuggled in from the West by relatives. 

What did I see and what did I read? What was I passionate about? 

I was passionate about the American dream – the opportunity for everyone to be successful, to make it in life through their own personal effort. 

I, like many other teenagers, was passionate about a certain brand of jeans that were not available in the GDR and which my aunt in West Germany regularly sent to me. 

I was passionate about all of these things and much more, even though until 1989 America was simply out of reach for me. And then, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. The border that for decades had divided a nation into two worlds was now open. 

And that is why for me today is, first of all, the time to say thank you. 

I thank the American and Allied pilots who heard and heeded the desperate call of Berlin’s mayor Ernst Reuter as he said “People of the world, …look upon this city.” 

For months, these pilots delivered food by airlift and saved Berlin from starvation. Many of these soldiers risked their lives doing this. Dozens lost their lives. We will remember and honor them forever. 

I thank the 16 million Americans who have been stationed in Germany over the past decades. Without their support as soldiers, diplomats and generally as facilitators it never would have been possible to overcome the division of Europe. We are happy to have American soldiers in Germany, today and in the future. They are ambassadors of their country in our country, just as many Americans with German roots today act as ambassadors of my country here. 

I think of John F. Kennedy, who won the hearts of despairing Berliners during his 1961 visit after the construction of the Berlin Wall when he called out to them: “Ich bin ein Berliner.” 

Ronald Reagan far earlier than others saw and recognized the sign of the times when, standing before the Brandenburg Gate in 1987, he demanded: “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate…Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” This appeal is something that will never be forgotten. 

I thank George Herbert Walker Bush for placing his trust in Germany and then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl and presenting us Germans with an offer of immeasurable value in May 1989: “Partnership in leadership.” What a generous offer, 40 years after the end of World War II. Just last Saturday we saw each other again in Berlin, along with Mikhail Gorbachev. We also owe him a debt of gratitude. 

Ladies and gentlemen, to sum it up in one sentence: I know, we Germans know, how much we owe to you, our American friends. We as a nation, and I personally, will never forget that…. 

(It) is true that America and Europe have had their share of disagreements. One may feel the other is sometimes too hesitant and fearful, or from the opposite perspective, too headstrong and pushy. And nevertheless, I am deeply convinced that there is no better partner for Europe than America and no better partner for America than Europe. 

Because what brings Europeans and Americans together and keeps them together is not just a shared history. What brings and keeps Europeans and Americans together are not just shared interests and the common global challenges that all regions of the world face. That alone would not be sufficient to explain the very special partnership between Europe and America and make it last. It is more than that. That which brings Europeans and Americans closer together and keeps them close is a common basis of shared values. It is a common idea of the individual and his inviolable dignity. It is a common understanding of freedom in responsibility. This is what we stand for in the unique transatlantic partnership and in the community of shared values that is NATO. This is what fills “Partnership in Leadership” with life. 

This basis of values was what ended the Cold War, and it is this basis of values that will enable us to stand the tests of our times – and these tests we must stand. 

Germany is united, Europe is united. That is what we have achieved. Now, today, our political generation must prove that it is able to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and that in a sense it is able to tear down today’s walls. 

Source: German Missions in the United States
 
Hot Spots will return next week.
 
Brian Trumbore


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-11/12/2009-      
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11/12/2009

Before...and after...the fall of the Wall

Speech by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to a Joint Session of Congress, Nov. 3, 2009.

[Excerpts]
 
Angela Merkel: 

I am the second German Chancellor on whom this honor [addressing the U.S. Congress] has been bestowed. The first was Konrad Adenauer when he addressed both Houses of Congress in 1957, albeit one after the other. 

Our lives could not have been more different. In 1957 I was just a small child of three years. I lived with my parents in Brandenburg, a region that belonged to the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the part of Germany that was not free. My father was a Protestant pastor. My mother, who had studied English and Latin to become a teacher, was not allowed to work in her chosen profession in the GDR. 

In 1957 Konrad Adenauer was already 81 years old. He had lived through the German Empire, the First World War, the Weimar Republic and the Second World War. The National Socialists ousted him from his position as mayor of the city of Cologne. After the war, he was among the men and women who helped build up the free, democratic Federal Republic of Germany. 

Nothing is more symbolic of the Federal Republic of Germany than its constitution, the Basic Law, or “Grundgesetz”. It was adopted exactly 60 years ago. Article 1 of the Grundgesetz proclaims, and I quote, “Human dignity shall be inviolable”. This short, simple sentence – “Human dignity shall be inviolable” – was the answer to the catastrophe that was the Second World War, to the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust, to the hate, destruction and annihilation that Germany brought upon Europe and the world. 

November 9th is just a few days away. It was on November 9, 1989 that the Berlin Wall fell and it was also on November 9 in 1938 that an indelible mark was branded into Germany’s memory and Europe’s history. On that day the National Socialists destroyed synagogues, setting them on fire, and murdered countless people. It was the beginning of what led to the break with civilization, the Shoah. I cannot stand before you today without remembering the victims of this day and of the Shoah. 

And I cannot stand before you today without mentioning how grateful I am for the presence of one guest, who personally experienced the horror of National Socialism in Germany and whom I recently met personally: Professor Fritz Stern. 

He was born in 1926 in what was then the German city of Breslau and today is the Polish city of Wroclaw. He and his family were able to escape the Nazi regime in 1938 and flee to the United States. In his autobiography, published in 2006 under the title “Five Germanys I Have Known,” Fritz Stern describes the moment of his arrival in New York’s harbor in 1938, a haven of freedom and security. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is wonderful that history willed that we should both – the twelve-year-old boy who was driven out of Germany and me, the Chancellor of reunited Germany who was born in the GDR – be here in this distinguished House. This fills me with great joy and deep gratitude. 

Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined, twenty years ago before the Wall fell, that this would happen. It was beyond imagination then to even think about traveling to the United States of America let alone standing here today. 

The land of unlimited opportunity – for a long time it was impossible for me to reach. The Wall, barbed wire and the order to shoot those who tried to leave limited my access to the free world. So I had to create my own picture of the United States from films and books, some of which were smuggled in from the West by relatives. 

What did I see and what did I read? What was I passionate about? 

I was passionate about the American dream – the opportunity for everyone to be successful, to make it in life through their own personal effort. 

I, like many other teenagers, was passionate about a certain brand of jeans that were not available in the GDR and which my aunt in West Germany regularly sent to me. 

I was passionate about all of these things and much more, even though until 1989 America was simply out of reach for me. And then, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. The border that for decades had divided a nation into two worlds was now open. 

And that is why for me today is, first of all, the time to say thank you. 

I thank the American and Allied pilots who heard and heeded the desperate call of Berlin’s mayor Ernst Reuter as he said “People of the world, …look upon this city.” 

For months, these pilots delivered food by airlift and saved Berlin from starvation. Many of these soldiers risked their lives doing this. Dozens lost their lives. We will remember and honor them forever. 

I thank the 16 million Americans who have been stationed in Germany over the past decades. Without their support as soldiers, diplomats and generally as facilitators it never would have been possible to overcome the division of Europe. We are happy to have American soldiers in Germany, today and in the future. They are ambassadors of their country in our country, just as many Americans with German roots today act as ambassadors of my country here. 

I think of John F. Kennedy, who won the hearts of despairing Berliners during his 1961 visit after the construction of the Berlin Wall when he called out to them: “Ich bin ein Berliner.” 

Ronald Reagan far earlier than others saw and recognized the sign of the times when, standing before the Brandenburg Gate in 1987, he demanded: “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate…Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” This appeal is something that will never be forgotten. 

I thank George Herbert Walker Bush for placing his trust in Germany and then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl and presenting us Germans with an offer of immeasurable value in May 1989: “Partnership in leadership.” What a generous offer, 40 years after the end of World War II. Just last Saturday we saw each other again in Berlin, along with Mikhail Gorbachev. We also owe him a debt of gratitude. 

Ladies and gentlemen, to sum it up in one sentence: I know, we Germans know, how much we owe to you, our American friends. We as a nation, and I personally, will never forget that…. 

(It) is true that America and Europe have had their share of disagreements. One may feel the other is sometimes too hesitant and fearful, or from the opposite perspective, too headstrong and pushy. And nevertheless, I am deeply convinced that there is no better partner for Europe than America and no better partner for America than Europe. 

Because what brings Europeans and Americans together and keeps them together is not just a shared history. What brings and keeps Europeans and Americans together are not just shared interests and the common global challenges that all regions of the world face. That alone would not be sufficient to explain the very special partnership between Europe and America and make it last. It is more than that. That which brings Europeans and Americans closer together and keeps them close is a common basis of shared values. It is a common idea of the individual and his inviolable dignity. It is a common understanding of freedom in responsibility. This is what we stand for in the unique transatlantic partnership and in the community of shared values that is NATO. This is what fills “Partnership in Leadership” with life. 

This basis of values was what ended the Cold War, and it is this basis of values that will enable us to stand the tests of our times – and these tests we must stand. 

Germany is united, Europe is united. That is what we have achieved. Now, today, our political generation must prove that it is able to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and that in a sense it is able to tear down today’s walls. 

Source: German Missions in the United States
 
Hot Spots will return next week.
 
Brian Trumbore