Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 11-Nov-2009
Europe celebrates the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989

Web Log - November, 2009

Europe celebrates the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989

If East and West Germany were reunited, then why not North and South Korea?

On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, all of Europe was celebrating. The following short video, Domino Effect:The Berlin Wall Falls Down Again, shows some of the more spectacular events in the celebration:

I was as shocked and surprised as anyone when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. I never dreamed that I would see it fall in my lifetime.

When World War II ended in 1945, much of the world was furious at the Germans. They blamed Nazi Germany for World War II, and they incorrectly also blamed Germany for World War I.

The WW II victors decided to partition Germany, to make sure that they wouldn't start WW III. According to the 1945 Potsdam Agreement, Germany was partitioned into four regions, one to be administered and occupied by each of four countries -- the Soviet Union, the UK, France, and the U.S. The last three of these regions were quickly merged into West Germany, while the Soviets retained control of what became East Germany.

The Soviets didn't stop there. They took control of all of Eastern Europe -- East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Albania. These became known as "Iron Curtain countries" after Winston Churchill's famous 1946 Iron Curtain speech:

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone -- Greece with its immortal glories -- is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy."

Soviet authorities built border fences separating east and west Europe, and border guards shot and killed anyone who tried to escape to the west.

But there was one gaping hole in the Iron Curtain -- the city of Berlin. Berlin was physically located inside of East Germany, but according to the Potsdam Agreement, Berlin itself was partitioned, with East Berlin controlled by the Soviets, and West Berlin still part of West Germany. This was never a comfortable situation, as the Soviets in 1948 tried to blockade West Berlin, and prevent supplies from reaching the city. President Harry Truman ordered the Berlin Airlift to supply tons of food and other supplies.

Throughout the 1950s, the vast differences between east and west became apparent to the world. People living in western European countries, such as UK, France and West Germany, enjoyed democracy and thriving economies. But people in Iron Curtain countries were oppressed and tortured for political crimes, and they lived in poverty. News stories coming out of eastern Europe told of the indignities and hardship of daily life, such as having to wait in a queue for hours just to buy a roll of toilet paper.

Millions of people who were trapped in the east would escape by making their way to East Berlin and crossing over to West Berlin and to freedom. Finally, the Soviets could stand it no more. On August 12, 1961, the East German army began tearing up streets that connected East and West Berlin, and installed a barbed wire barrier encircling all of West Berlin, guarded by troops ordered to shoot to kill anyone who tried to defect. Thus, the border was closed within 24 hours. After that, the East Germans replaced the barbed wired with 12 foot high concrete barriers, guarded by watch towers.

The Berlin Wall split friends, families and lovers for decades. People who were trapped in the East could no longer travel to the West, and people in the West didn't want to go East, for fear of being trapped there. Thousands of East Germans tried to escape by climbing over the wall, and hundreds were killed by East German border guards.

By the 1980s, the Berlin Wall was becoming intolerable to the Germans themselves. Germany entered a generational Unraveling era and, as indicated by the name, all the austere measures that were imposed after WW II to prevent a new war began to unravel. A triggering event may have been President Ronald Reagan's 1987 speech in Berlin, in which he said, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

During the next few years, an incredible domino effect occurred. First, Hungary opened its border with Austria, permitting East Europeans to escape to the West via that route. Mass demonstrations began in East Germany, and continued for weeks. On November 9, a televised news program mistakenly reported that the Berlin borders would be opened immediately. Huge crowds of East Germaners mobbed the border gates, and border guards were faced with the choice of shooting into the crowd or opening the gates. Fortunately, they chose the latter.

Germany was reunited within a few months after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There was still fear among WW II survivors over the reunification of Germany -- fear that a reunited Germany would once again become a military threat to Europe. I recall seeing Henry Kissinger on television saying something like, "I will have no trouble dying happily if Germany is never reunited in my lifetime."

Recent news reports indicate that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterand feared that a united Germany would a "unstoppable force" in an unbalanced Europe.

Very quickly, Communism collapsed in other East European countries, and within a couple of years, the Soviet Union collapsed. Johnny Carson joked that America was the only country that still had a Communist Party.

That was a great joke, but of course there are still two Communist countries remaining -- North Korea and Cuba. Why can't North and South Korea be reunited as Germany was, and why can't Communism in Cuba end, as it did in East Germany?

Generational Dynamics provides some answers.

Generational Dynamics views civil wars very differently from external wars. A civil war pits neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, husband against wife. If a country fights an external war then, win or lose, the country can celebrate or mourn and then move on. But a country can never celebrate a civil war, and may need a century or more to really move on.

East Germany became partitioned from West Germany by a political decision, not by a civil war. By the time the generational Unraveling era had arrived, there had been two generations of young people who had no personal memory of WW II and didn't fear a reunited Germany, so the political decision was reversed.

But the partitioning of Korea was no simple political decision. It was a bitter civil war between two groups of Koreans. It's not a surprise that reunification is difficult or impossible -- without another war.

Cuba is a different story. Cuba also had a civil war -- Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution that climaxed in 1959. Cuba today is in the middle of a generational Unraveling era, and when Fidel Castro stepped down, replaced by his brother Raoul, there were some signs that the Communist economy was beginning to unravel.

The fall of the Berlin Wall ended the story of East Germany, but the stories of North Korea and Cuba are still being told.

Update: I left China out of this discussion because I didn't want to lengthen the article, but a web site reader said I should have included it. Briefly, China also had a major civil war, Mao Zedong's Communist Revolution, climaxing in 1949. However, China is different from the others. It's nominally a Communist country today, having a repressive government that jails, tortures and executes political dissidents. But China has given up control of many parts of the economy, so China today would more accurately be called a Fascist country, rather than a Communist country. (Paragraphs added, Nov 11)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Europe thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (11-Nov-2009) Permanent Link
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail
Donate to Generational Dynamics via PayPal

Web Log Pages

Current Web Log

Web Log Summary - 2016
Web Log Summary - 2015
Web Log Summary - 2014
Web Log Summary - 2013
Web Log Summary - 2012
Web Log Summary - 2011
Web Log Summary - 2010
Web Log Summary - 2009
Web Log Summary - 2008
Web Log Summary - 2007
Web Log Summary - 2006
Web Log Summary - 2005
Web Log Summary - 2004

Web Log - December, 2016
Web Log - November, 2016
Web Log - October, 2016
Web Log - September, 2016
Web Log - August, 2016
Web Log - July, 2016
Web Log - June, 2016
Web Log - May, 2016
Web Log - April, 2016
Web Log - March, 2016
Web Log - February, 2016
Web Log - January, 2016
Web Log - December, 2015
Web Log - November, 2015
Web Log - October, 2015
Web Log - September, 2015
Web Log - August, 2015
Web Log - July, 2015
Web Log - June, 2015
Web Log - May, 2015
Web Log - April, 2015
Web Log - March, 2015
Web Log - February, 2015
Web Log - January, 2015
Web Log - December, 2014
Web Log - November, 2014
Web Log - October, 2014
Web Log - September, 2014
Web Log - August, 2014
Web Log - July, 2014
Web Log - June, 2014
Web Log - May, 2014
Web Log - April, 2014
Web Log - March, 2014
Web Log - February, 2014
Web Log - January, 2014
Web Log - December, 2013
Web Log - November, 2013
Web Log - October, 2013
Web Log - September, 2013
Web Log - August, 2013
Web Log - July, 2013
Web Log - June, 2013
Web Log - May, 2013
Web Log - April, 2013
Web Log - March, 2013
Web Log - February, 2013
Web Log - January, 2013
Web Log - December, 2012
Web Log - November, 2012
Web Log - October, 2012
Web Log - September, 2012
Web Log - August, 2012
Web Log - July, 2012
Web Log - June, 2012
Web Log - May, 2012
Web Log - April, 2012
Web Log - March, 2012
Web Log - February, 2012
Web Log - January, 2012
Web Log - December, 2011
Web Log - November, 2011
Web Log - October, 2011
Web Log - September, 2011
Web Log - August, 2011
Web Log - July, 2011
Web Log - June, 2011
Web Log - May, 2011
Web Log - April, 2011
Web Log - March, 2011
Web Log - February, 2011
Web Log - January, 2011
Web Log - December, 2010
Web Log - November, 2010
Web Log - October, 2010
Web Log - September, 2010
Web Log - August, 2010
Web Log - July, 2010
Web Log - June, 2010
Web Log - May, 2010
Web Log - April, 2010
Web Log - March, 2010
Web Log - February, 2010
Web Log - January, 2010
Web Log - December, 2009
Web Log - November, 2009
Web Log - October, 2009
Web Log - September, 2009
Web Log - August, 2009
Web Log - July, 2009
Web Log - June, 2009
Web Log - May, 2009
Web Log - April, 2009
Web Log - March, 2009
Web Log - February, 2009
Web Log - January, 2009
Web Log - December, 2008
Web Log - November, 2008
Web Log - October, 2008
Web Log - September, 2008
Web Log - August, 2008
Web Log - July, 2008
Web Log - June, 2008
Web Log - May, 2008
Web Log - April, 2008
Web Log - March, 2008
Web Log - February, 2008
Web Log - January, 2008
Web Log - December, 2007
Web Log - November, 2007
Web Log - October, 2007
Web Log - September, 2007
Web Log - August, 2007
Web Log - July, 2007
Web Log - June, 2007
Web Log - May, 2007
Web Log - April, 2007
Web Log - March, 2007
Web Log - February, 2007
Web Log - January, 2007
Web Log - December, 2006
Web Log - November, 2006
Web Log - October, 2006
Web Log - September, 2006
Web Log - August, 2006
Web Log - July, 2006
Web Log - June, 2006
Web Log - May, 2006
Web Log - April, 2006
Web Log - March, 2006
Web Log - February, 2006
Web Log - January, 2006
Web Log - December, 2005
Web Log - November, 2005
Web Log - October, 2005
Web Log - September, 2005
Web Log - August, 2005
Web Log - July, 2005
Web Log - June, 2005
Web Log - May, 2005
Web Log - April, 2005
Web Log - March, 2005
Web Log - February, 2005
Web Log - January, 2005
Web Log - December, 2004
Web Log - November, 2004
Web Log - October, 2004
Web Log - September, 2004
Web Log - August, 2004
Web Log - July, 2004
Web Log - June, 2004

Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.