Eyewitnesses to the fall of the Berlin Wall reflected this week on their experiences and paid tribute to the courageous Germans who made Wednesday's Day of Unity in Berlin possible.
The talks Thursday by the small group of Brigham Young University students and faculty members were sponsored by the Y.'s Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages.Kirsten Christensen, a graduate student in German and a former student intern at the American Embassy in East Berlin, described the efforts of the Stasi (East German secret police) before the fall.
Christensen said she watched as people were taken away because the police apparently thought their ideas conflicted with the government's, ideas she said they hadn't even expressed.
"As I stood there, I had this rock right here," Christensen said, pointing to her heart. "I looked around at my colleagues . . . all of them, their eyes were just welling up and the feeling was so overwhelming . . . these people were being carted away for, for nothing."
Quoting from the Communist Manifesto, she said, "The Communist Party has no interest separate from that of the people."
"I find it kind of a tragic irony that it was the people themselves who had to make this point clear to the Communist Party as they went out on the streets last summer and last fall and declared, `We are the people. We are the proletariat. We are the ones you are allegedly working for,' " she said.
Garold Davis, professor of Germanic and Slavic languages, was a mission president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Dresden when resistance to the East German regime flowered.
He described many key events that spurred the people's hope for freedom, including Poland's liberalization and Hungary's change in policy that allowed East Germans to pass through its borders into Austria.
He said East German leader Erich Honnecker's "great mistake" was when he received payment from the West German government for every person he allowed to emigrate to the West.
"We heard that he kept a personal bank account of 100 million West (German) marks that had to be kept at that level at all times. If it went below that level, then he would allow more people to emigrate," Davis said.
When West Germany declared every East German would be recognized as full citizens of West Germany, many people flocked to the West German embassy in Czechoslovakia seeking sanctuary, he said.
Honnecker allowed 4,500 of these people to emigrate. He made a mistake by packing them all on six trains and routing the trains through Dresden, Davis said, adding the sight of the emigres to freedom inspired the rest of the people.
Norma Davis, Garold Davis' wife and an assistant professor of Humanities at BYU, described the beginning of the mass demonstrations. News traveled by word of mouth and people courageously confronted the Stasi. Some were beaten; many were arrested and forced to stand all night in one position, she said, but that only solidified their determination.
"We have some friends who are older, and the husband said, `We've got to go and demonstrate.' She said, `No. I'm afraid. Let's not. Let's stay home.' He said, `This is our last chance. If we don't do this now, we will never be able to.' And so they began to demonstrate every Sunday, every Monday, sometimes Thursdays," she said.