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 celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living