WORLD FREEDOM DAY
World Freedom Day on November 9th each year commemorates the fall of the Berlin Wall. This historic event signified the end of communism in Central and Eastern Europe.
At the conclusion of WWII, Germany was divided into East and West Germany. The two sectors were divided by the American, British, and French-occupied sectors of West Germany, and the Soviet Union controlled East Germany. In 1949, East Germany became its own country. The capital city of Berlin fell within the Soviet Zone of Occupation.
As might be expected, the living conditions between East and West Germany were very different. In capitalist West Germany, economic conditions thrived. The opposite happened in communist East Germany. In order to escape the harsh conditions of communist rule, many Germans defected to West Germany. By the late 1960s, East Germany had lost much of its population, which included a majority of its labor force. Between 1949 and 1961, nearly 3 million people had left East Germany. Out of desperation, the Soviet Union threatened the use of nuclear weapons to overtake West Germany, including West Berlin.
On August 12-13, 1961, soldiers erected concrete posts and strung barbed wire between East and West Berlin. This action took place in the middle of the night. When people in Berlin woke the next morning, they could not go to the other side of the city. Even if they had a job or a family on the other side, Berliners couldn’t cross over. They were stuck on their side of Berlin for decades. Days later, soldiers installed a sturdier wall.
Eventually, electric fences, watchtowers, and minefields were installed along the 91-mile wall. The Berlin Wall became a symbol of the Cold War.
Ending the Cold War
During that time, lines were physically drawn. A wall. Families physically divided. Countries at arms.
In June of 1982, President Ronald Reagan visited Berlin, addressing the issue of the wall, the arms race, and the Cold War. In 1987, he once more visited the Berlin Wall and made his now-famous speech, "Tear down this wall!"
Known as the "great communicator," Reagan continued his discussions with the Soviet Union's General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.
In 1989, the new leader of East Germany greatly reduced travel restrictions from East Germany. Border guards began letting people cross from East Berlin into West Berlin. On November 9th, 1989, when Berliners realized the borders were open, thousands descended upon the wall. They began chipping away at the wall with chisels and hammers. Piece by piece, the wall came down. On October 3, 1990, East and West Germany reunified into a single German state.
Around the world, people's freedom is still threatened. Many seek to control entire populations. Tyrants threaten violence or manipulate the financial sectors. Whether through political, social, or violent pressures, these dictators still exist. This day recognizes the need to continue striving for freedom for everyone.
WORLD FREEDOM DAY HISTORY
In 2001, President George Bush proclaimed November 9th as World Freedom Day. The day is a United States Federal observance. Since 2001, each president since George Bush has proclaimed November 9th as World Freedom Day. (https://www.nationaldaycalendar.com/november/world-freedom-day-november-9)
Learn more at On This Day.