Presidents in Berlin
Berlin has set the scene for some of the most memorable speeches delivered by U.S. Presidents in the modern era. Today, President Obama speaks at the Brandenburg Gate during his first state visit to the German capitol.
President Obama’s speech occurs 50 years to the month after JFK famously declared his solidarity with the people of Berlin. In June of 1987, Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate on the west side of the Berlin Wall and implored, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
More at the Presidential Timeline
The Fall of The Berlin Wall
"I’ve just arrived from Berlin. It is like witnessing an enormous fair. It has the atmosphere of a festival. The frontiers are absolutely open. At certain points they are literally taking down the wall and building new checkpoints. At Checkpoint Charlie, thousands of poeple are crossing both ways."
On November 9, 1989, the East German government announces that border crossings into Western Europe will once again be allowed. Unexpectedly, checkpoint guards open the gates allowing crowds from both sides of the divided city to celebrate together.
The images of happy people from East and West embracing and celebrating around the Berlin Wall still resonate as the moment of German Unity. In fact, the fall of the wall raised more questions about German unity than answers. No one knew whether West Germany’s allies and protectors would allow a reunited and fully sovereign Germany or whether the Soviet Union would tolerate a united Germany in NATO. The task of integrating East Germany’s command economy with West Germany’s social market system was fraught with challenges.
Despite the uncertainty, the unification process was worked out in the next year, and East and West Germany officially became one on October 3, 1990.
These images show the west-side of the Berlin Wall, circa 1988.
-from the George Bush Library