(/sites/default/files/uploads/2014/11/berlinwall1.jpg)Twenty-five years ago, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came crashing down. The anniversary prompts a meditation on some realities that escaped the old-line establishment press, and which may remain unknown entirely to those growing up in the Age of the Tweet.
The wall was a project of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a one-party totalitarian dictatorship and the most slavish ally of the Soviet Union, which under Joseph Stalin grabbed half of Germany in the wake of World War II. The GDR was also the Communist state most involved in terrorism against the West in general and the United States in particular.
The official name of the wall was the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall, the “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart,” the familiar inversion of reality. As the late Susan Sontag observed during the 1980s, “Communism is fascism.” So the GDR was actually the fascist state, with goose-stepping troops decked out very much like those of the National Socialist regime under the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, also known as Nazis. Sontag was not the first to make this observation. The late Hans Massaquoi, son of a Liberian father and German mother, who in Destined to Witness told of growing up black in Nazi Germany, saw no difference at all between the Nazis and Communists.
The Communist regimes were so repressive that people fled at any opportunity, leaving loved ones behind. More than 3 million people fled the GDR and no Stalinist dictatorship could allow people to vote with their feet. So in August 1961 the regime put up the wall, along with barbed wire and guard towers holding vigil over the “death strip,” as it came to be known, embedded with anti-personnel mines.
So the GDR made emigration an exciting experience. Some 5,000 made the attempt to breach the wall, among them the Strelzyk and Wetzel families, who flew to freedom in a hot-air balloon. In the 1982 Disney film Night Crossing, Peter Strelzyk (John Hurt) calls GDR oppressors “pigs,” a rare case of truth in cinema dealing with Communism. For those who remained, life was bleak.
Marxist ideology guaranteed that the GDR would be an economic basket case, less consequential to the world economy than Hong Kong. The GDR’s crowning industrial achievement was the Trabant, doubtless the most inferior automobile ever produced. But as John O. Koehler showed in Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police, the Stalinist regime was efficient at repression.
Beyond North Korea and Albania under Enver Hoxha, perhaps no regime has exercised such complete control over the people. Koehler documents the repressions of the “Red Gestapo” against both Germans and the West. The material on Stasi operations against the United States and NATO remains relevant, along with Stasi operations in the Third World.
In “The Stasi and Terrorism” chapter Koehler detailed the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin a “massacre” carried out by the Libyan regime of Moamar Qaddafi. Koehler provides the full cast of characters, including Yasser Chraidi, the Libyan terrorist who planned the attack with Musbah Albugasem Eter, Musbah El Ablani and others who were not members of the Libyan People’s Bureau. Those included Mohamed-Suleiman Benali, a Moroccan “residing in West Berlin on welfare.”
The GDR was also a “playground for international terrorists,” such as Abu Daoud, leader of the Black September group that masterminded the 1972 Olympic attack that claimed 11 Israelis. The regime made Daoud a “guest of honor” at a Communist Party Central Committee event and housed at the Metropole, East Germany’s most luxurious hotel. “He was also given a reception at the mission of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and met with officials at the Syrian and South Yemeni embassies” before moving on unscathed. East Germany was also a safe haven for Carlos “the jackal,” Abu Nidal, and others.
Stasi provides a thorough account of how and why the Berlin Wall came down. But on the intelligence and terrorism sides, many loose ends remain. Libya is once again a playground for terrorists, and they now understand that they can kill American diplomats and torch the diplomatic compound with impunity. Not only so, but the U.S. Secretary of State will blame everything on a video and say “what does it matter?”
Meanwhile, 25 years after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, Barack Obama remains shrink-wrapped in statist superstition. Omnipotent government may have failed elsewhere, but in his view it remains precisely what America needs, along with more surveillance of the people. So no surprise if the anniversary draws no comment from the President of the United States.
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