Reuben Jones, Broadside Correspondent

Twenty years ago, the people of Germany celebrated a moment in their history that not only provided happiness to its citizens, but broke down a physical and mental barrier that divided all of Europe.

It was an event that the German ambassador to the United States, Klaus Scharioth, described as one of the “most positive things that has happened in the past century.”

Scharioth spoke to a crowd of about 100 people on Nov. 17 and told his personal recollection of the Berlin Wall falling in 1989. He spoke about the significance of the event, as well as the impact it has had twenty years later.

“People had lost all hope – I know from my own family,” said Scharioth, speaking about the concern that the wall would never fall. He said when 500,000 people demonstrated for freedom, it lead to change.

“[It was] much more encouraging if you know you’re part of a movement across a country,” said Scharioth.
That movement on Nov. 9, 1989 led to a moment in history that will not be forgotten. “Very few of us thought it would happen in our lifetime,” said Scharioth.

Although the wall that had been standing for more than 25 years had finally fallen, it did not lead to a perfect Germany.

Scharioth described how the “the problem isn’t over.” There are still pockets of unemployment in Germany that reach 18-20 percent. “We have not done all the work,” said Scharioth.

Although there is still work to be done, the moment in history is one to cherish and one to remember. That is why the German embassy sponsored “Freedom Without Walls.” The goal of the event is for people to remember the fall of the Berlin Wall and to look back and see how it proved that peaceful change is possible.

The future of Germany was another topic the ambassador touched on, and he emphasized the importance of relations with the U.S.

According to Scharioth, it is crucial for Europe and the U.S. to have a close relationship to face the problems of today and of the future.

“All the challenges of the future, practically without exception, we can face and successfully handle only if Europe and the U.S. work together,” said Scharioth.

He emphasized how “the relationship between Germany and United States is absolutely key.”

The ambassador’s speech marked the end of George Mason University’s “Freedom Without Walls” events, a program that featured a unity walk and an actual construction and demolition of a wall replica of the Berlin Wall.

“I really enjoyed this event,” said Tim Sandole, a part-time graduate student studying economics.

“I have seen [the ambassador] in action before. He’s very intelligent, has very fantastic things to say and he speaks fantastic English.”

Senior Efrata Yitbarek, a global affairs and Russian studies major who came to the event for a class, found it to be very beneficial.

“It’s important to know what came before us,” she said. “It’s a pretty big event in human history.”

Scharioth became ambassador in 2006 and has since learned that “all challenges of today are global.” This is why Scharioth believes that “we need the United States and the United States needs Europe.”