Originally published in 2009
Locust Grove, Virginia – Descendants of the Germanna Colonies and members of the public met at the Brawdus Martin Germanna Visitor Center on Saturday, November 7, 2009 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The program began with a showing of the stirring “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech by President John F. Kennedy and brief remarks of welcome by Germanna Foundation Marc Wheat.
He observed that the Visitor Center is a place of memory, where the histories of the Germanna families are preserved and their lives recalled.
It is a fitting place where we remember important matters and keep green the memory of others departed.
He reminded the audience of Peter Fechter, an eighteen-year-old East German who was shot trying to leap the wall to freedom, and left to bleed to death. He was the wall’s first victim.
The audience was also reminded of the role played by the Pan-European Picnic, which led the first mass escape from East Germany in years, and the citizens of Leipzig, whose prayer meetings and marches of 70,000 people centered on the Nikolaikirche led to mass demonstrations throughout East Germany.
Many other memories were shared by those who gathered at the Germanna Visitor Center.
Edda Davis from Berlin recalled living in West Berlin when the city was divided overnight by barbed wire and the construction of the wall in 1961.
A Canadian visiting friends in Orange County shared his memory of being present at the Kennedy speech in 1963. A retired teacher of German said that she was studying in Bonn during the Kennedy trip to Germany, and remarked how it sent waves of excitement through the German people.
Nancy Turnage, wife of Executive Director Frank Turnage, spoke of her travels to East Germany and meeting a married couple of physicians who had not been allowed to travel and who did not have a telephone at home.
Sabrina Seng, from Thuringia in the eastern part of Germany, spoke about the symbolism of the cake, a recipe commonly made under the East German regime but now ready to be cut down on the 20th anniversary of the Wall’s fall.
She recalled a relative who escaped to the West and had called her grandmother to say that he was safe – and seeing a transcript of the entire telephone conversation years later that had been made by the Stasi, the East German secret police.
The ceremonial cutting of a Berlin Wall cake was conducted by our new friend, Edda Davis, from Berlin, and by two young German friends who were born after the Wall fell: Sabrina Seng and Laura Mueller of Baden-Wurtemburg in the western part of Germany, the origin of the 1717 colonists. Sabrina and Laura, both in the United States living with American families as au pairs, would never have met had the Wall not come down.
It was a great pleasure to celebrate the blessings of liberty in the company of a multi-national gathering – German, Ukrainian, Canadian, Australian, and American – veterans of the U.S. Armed Services, retirees who served with our intelligence community during the Cold War, and patriotic citizens.
A young Ukrainian mother, with her American husband she had met when he was a Peace Corps volunteer, said that she was born in the Soviet Union but could now say with pride she is from a free Ukraine. It was important to her that she bring her baby to the Visitor Center to celebrate this important anniversary.
Bob Ford, a local realtor from Stafford, Virginia, brought his personal piece of the Berlin Wall, which was enclosed in a clear plastic cube box.
And Linda Cannon, who lives nearby at Lake of the Woods, brought her personal collection of German newspapers that documented both the beginning of the Wall, and its tearing down – including a photo on the front page of a August 11, 1961 newspaper showing that the first wall was a barbed wire fence.
All these items were displayed on a table in the Visitor Center for all to see.
Erected August 13, 1961 by the Communist regime in East Germany to halt its citizens from escaping to freedom, the Wall divided Berlin for 28 years, amputating vital links and separating families and friends.
On November 9, 1989, jubilant crowds gathered on both sides of the Wall around midnight to celebrate the opening of the border between the eastern and western sectors of the divided city.
The fall of the Wall was the beginning of the end of Germany’s postwar division, finally to be reunited on October 3, 1990.
The Germanna Foundation honors the memory of those German immigrants who came to Virginia in 1714 and 1717 and shortly thereafter, blessing their descendants with nearly 300 years of living in freedom in America.
The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of the most vivid symbols of the advance of liberty around the world.