Berlin Wall festivities highlight new divide

BERLIN IS planning a huge party to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the end of the Wall next week.

There will be celebratory speeches at the Reichstag delivered by elder statesmen including Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush, and the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich will play again under the Brandenburg Gate.

Only the East Germans who toppled the Wall and buried communism under its ruins will be missing.

There is nothing to stop them from coming, of course. They are no longer forbidden from walking down the Unter den Linden, across the invisible boundary between the two halves of the united Germany, and gaping at the Reichstag's restored facade. As long as they don't say anything.

The order of festivities has been planned with Prussian precision. Wolfgang Thierse, parliament's president, has been given five minutes to open the proceedings. Then Mssrs Gorbachev and Bush, presidents 10 years ago of the two superpowers, will speak for 10 minutes each.

Helmut Kohl, the "Chancellor of German Unity", and Gerhard Schroder, Chancellor of Germany's most disunited government since the Weimar Republic, are allowed a full 20 minutes each to regale their audience with accounts of their respective roles.

Mr Kohl, as is well known, can speak fondly on this subject for many hours without interruption, as he has insisted on doing on numerous occasions during his long career.

Mr Schroder, on the other hand, might not wish to dwell on this particular episode. He was no fan of reunification, and was decidedly unenthusiastic about the events unfolding in Berlin 10 years ago.

How fortunate it is that Mr Thierse happens to be an East German.

He gets his five minutes of fame ex officio as a token Ossi, because none of his former compatriots has been invited. Thanks to Mr Thierse's contribution, the Eastern perspective of this drama, whose first act unfolded in the East with a cast of millions of East Germans, will not be entirely lost.

But still some East Germans are grumbling, as is their custom. Senior politicians of the new Lander have gone so far as to describe the planned festivities as a disgrace. Germany should not be commemorating the fall of the Wall "without a single speaker from the East", said Harald Ringstrorff, Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

The former dissidents who led the revolution, many of whom have since been consumed by it, are the most glaring omission. "It was human-rights activists who gave the people the courage to run to the border checkpoints," said Richard Schroder, a prominent former dissident. At least one of them should be allowed to speak, he urged.

Many West Germans are inclined to agree, with a Bavarian politician going as far as to say that the wrong Schroder had been invited. The government says, though, that it is now too late to change the programme.

Perhaps it is for the best. As things stand, the Reichstag jamboree will provide an authentic snap-shot of the current state of the nation: a country divided by its people's perception of what really happened 10 years ago.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot