The Foreign Service Journal, November 2019

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2019 35 first people crossing the checkpoints, thus ridding East Germany of dissidents. Evicting themwas a fitting and expedient solution: The guards had tried to save East Germany from its discontented citizens by throwing the rascals out of the country. The rest of the story played out on live television. Tom Brokaw broadcast to America and the world. Ger- man television reported to West and East Germans alike. East Germans saw the open Berlin Wall and hundreds of their fellow citizens fleeing west. They could not see the new rules, but Tom Brokaw and his fellow journalists created facts on the ground. Worried about the GDR and not trusting their government to give them visas, East Germans decided on the spur of the moment to go on their own to the checkpoints. The newly announced visa requirement gave them the win- dow, and they tested it. They poured into West Berlin thinking the opening would not last, that this was their only chance to taste freedom. Some expected to return home. Others hopped into their Trabis and drove many miles to get to Berlin in time to cross and not miss the only chance in their life they would have to visit West Berlin. The End of the Old Order The fall of the Berlin Wall is for the East Germans what the storming of the Bastille 200 years ago was for the French: the end of the old order and the end of an era. The East German people mustered the courage to storm the wall that had imprisoned them for decades, thus discovering the secret of freedom. They took their future into their own hands. Four months later, on March 18, 1990, they elected a democratic government, headed by Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere, who led the parliamentary decision for accession to the West German constitution and, therefore, German unity on Oct. 3. On that November night, however, it was not only the people of the GDR who embraced freedom with courage. That the night of Nov. 9 remained peaceful was not only due to the Harald Jaegers and Tom Brokaws. In faraway Moscow, the president of the Soviet Union had also made courageous deci- sions. Mikhail Gorbachev’s decision not to send his soldiers to restore Soviet control over East Germany was the critical step that made the revolution peaceful; that, followed by the East German decision not to carry out the shoot-to-kill order to defend the border, led to peaceful German reunification and European unity. We must not forget the lessons learned from the Peaceful Revolution of 1989. Indeed, they seemmore relevant today than ever before. n