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Berlin Wall fall recalled in Bundestag

November 7, 2014

Germany's parliament has launched a 25th anniversary weekend to recall the Berlin Wall's fall. Bundestag President Norbert Lammert said dissidents across eastern Europe had contributed to Germany's "peaceful revolution."

Bundestag 25 Jahre Mauerfall 07.11.2014 Biermann
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm

Former East German dissident songwriter Wolf Biermann broke with parliamentary protocol on Friday by delivering his protest song "Encouragement," saying it was once "comfort for the soul" that kept alive dissenters locked away by the ex-East German communist regime.

Biermann, who was kicked out of East Germany in 1976 and who performed briefly with guitar at the request of Lammert (pictured with Biermann), described opposition leftist parliamentarians only meters away as the "wretched remains" of the former ruling SED party that "fortunately was overcome."

In reply, the Left party's parliamentary group leader Gregor Gysi said while freedoms gained in 1989 resulted worldwide in "new structures," many Germans yearned for past social security entitlements, such as equal pensions in east and west.

East Germany had disappeared and so too had much of the "old Federal Republic of Germany," said Gysi, referring to the former West Germany.

Bundestag 25 Jahre Mauerfall 07.11.2014 Biermann
Biermann, with his guitar and distinctive voice, took aim at the Left, watched by LammertImage: AFP/Getty Images/T. Schwarz

Reunification, when enacted formally in October 1990, was seen by the then West as a "victory" in the form of an accession by East Germany to the Federal Republic, Gysi claimed.

Lammert cites Estonia, Romania

Parliamentary president Lammert in his opening address said the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 was the culmination of many acts of protest across eastern Europe's former Soviet bloc.

He listed the workers' uprising in East Germany in 1953, democratic gains wrought in the 1980s by the trade union-led Solidarity movement in Poland, the perestroika sought by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and acts of popular defiance in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and the then Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania.

They formed a lengthy "mosaic" that contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 when events had reached "boiling point," Lammert said.

Referring to the recent removal by refugee activists of white crosses that marked the locations of past fatal bids to cross the Wall in Berlin, Lammert said the thefts amounted to "pure cynicism."

Gerda Hasselfeldt, who leads the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) conservative grouping in the Bundestag, expressed relief that the Wall's fall took place without a single shot being fired, despite security preparations by the East German regime.

Hundreds killed

The former East German authorities built the Wall, which they called the "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart", in August 1961 to halt a mass exodus of residents to the West.

At least 389 people lost their lives trying to escape, either into West Berlin, which lay as an "island" inside former East Germany, or while trying to flee across the tightly guarded East German border fenceline that split Germany more or less down the middle.

ipj/tj (dpa, AFP)

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