A statue of Ronald Reagan has been unveiled at the site of his famous Berlin Wall speech where he urged the Soviet Union to ‘tear down’ the barrier.
The former US president visited the city on June 12, 1987 where he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to go further with the reforms he was instituting.
In a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate, which was just on the East German side of the Wall, Mr Reagan said that peace and prosperity would only come from demolishing the wall.
Just two years later, on November 9, 1989, the East German government opened the country’s borders with West Germany, and openings were made in the Berlin Wall. It was demolished over the next few years.
Today, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo unveiled a statue in Mr Reagan’s honour, calling it a ‘monumental moment’ before helping remove its cover on the embassy’s terrace, at eye-level with the top of the Brandenburg Gate.
It comes as the city prepares to celebrate 30 years since the wall came down on November 9, 1989. The guarded concrete barrier physically and ideologically divided the German city from 1961 to 1989.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation Chairman Fred Ryan unveil a statue of the former president at the US Embassy in Berlin
US President Ronald Reagan, commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin, addresses on June 12, 1987 the people of West Berlin at the base of the Brandenburg Gate, near the Berlin Wall
It comes as the city prepares to celebrate 30 years since the wall came down on November 9, 1989. Pictured, the art installation ‘Visions in Motion’ at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, November 8, 2019
Mr Pompeo was winding up a two-day trip to multiple cities and towns for commemorations.
The most well-known part of Reagan’s oratory came at roughly 12 minutes into his 26-minute speech.
The US president said: ‘If you seek liberalisation, come here to this gate. Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’
Though it received relatively little media coverage at the time, it became widely known in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Mr Pompeo praised Mr Reagan for his defence of freedom, telling a gathering of politicians, diplomats, donors and others that the former president ‘courageously denounced the greatest threat to that freedom, the Soviet Empire, the Evil Empire’.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas drew domestic and international criticism recently for failing to mention Mr Reagan — or any other American — in an article published in 26 European newspapers focused on the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of communism.
President Reagan giving a speech at the Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987 in Germany
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the audience prior to an unveiling ceremony of a statue of former President Ronald Reagan on the top of United States embassy in Berlin, Germany
A classical 12-column gateway, the Brandenburg Gate has stood roughly at the centre of Berlin since its completion as a monument to peace in 1791 (pictured, the art installation ‘Visions in Motion’ at Brandenburg Gate today)
He sought to defuse the criticism on Thursday at an event with Mr Pompeo, saying: ‘We owe you our freedom and unity to a decisive degree,’ singling out contributions from Mr Reagan and former president George HW Bush.
US ambassador Richard Grenell earlier this year opened a multimedia exhibit on the same terrace focusing on Mr Reagan’s Brandenburg Gate speech, and said the statue was a tribute to a president whose ‘willingness to defend people seeking greater freedom around the world remains an inspiration today to Germans, Americans and every human being’.
Several American presidents visited Berlin during the Cold War to express their solidarity with those in the democratic West of the city that was divided by the Wall from August 13 1961 to November 9 1989.
The wall, which surrounded West Berlin, was erected at the height of the Cold War in 1961by Communist East Germany to prevent East Germans from taking refuge in the Capitalist enclave.
In this file photo taken on November 11, 1989, West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin, near the Potsdamer Platz square
An East German border soldier looks at a man hammering a section of the Berlin Wall at Markgrafen Strasse /Rudi-Dutschke Strasse in Berlin, Germany on June 2, 1990
Tourists are pictured walking along a 200-metre segment on the Berlin Wall on October 5. Mr Schale says some of his friends talk about ‘invisible walls that divide’ Germany today
But on November 9, 1989, East Germans came in droves, riding their sputtering Trabants, motorcycles and rickety bicycles. Hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands crossed over the following days.
Stores in West Berlin stayed open late and banks gave out 100 Deutschmarks in ‘welcome money’ to each East German visitor.
The party lasted four days and by November 12 more than 3 million of East Germany’s 16.6 million people had crossed the border.
Klaus-Hubert Fugger, a student at the Free University in West Berlin, recalled how he had been drinking in a bar when people entered ‘who looked a bit different.’
Mr Fugger, now 43, told how he and three others took a taxi to the Brandenburg Gate and scaled the 12-foot (4m) wall with hundreds of others.
‘There were really like a lot of scenes, like people crying, because they couldn’t get the situation,’ he said.
‘A lot of people came with bottles of champagne and sweet German sparkling wine.’
The wall, which stood for 28 years, is now mostly destroyed, though some parts still stand as part of an open-air museum. The only reminder is a series of inlaid bricks that trace its path.
‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall’: How Ronald Reagan’s 1987 Berlin Wall Speech became widely known in 1989 after barrier was torn down
The most recognisable symbol of Germany, both as a divided nation in the bleak days of the Cold War and as one of the powerhouses of Europe in its post-1990 reunified state.
A classical 12-column gateway, the Brandenburg Gate has stood roughly at the centre of Berlin since its completion as a monument to peace in 1791.
Between August 1961 and December 1989, however, it lay marooned just behind the Berlin Wall in Communist East Germany – clearly visible but unreachable from the west side of the city.
It was within earshot of the gate that, in 1987, Ronald Reagan gave a famous speech, shouting: ‘Open this gate, Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’
US President Ronald Reagan addresses on June 12, 1987 the people of West Berlin at the base of the Brandenburg Gate, near the Berlin Wall
Though it received relatively little media coverage at the time, his speech became widely known in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Reagan’s speech had similar themes to that of another famous American at the Berlin Wall some 24 years before.
In 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy uttered four famous words—Ich bin ein Berliner (‘I am a Berliner’)—in a similar show of defiance in the face of Soviet oppression.
When Kennedy gave his speech, the wall had only recently been built.
For nearly three decades, the Berlin Wall cleaved the German capital in two, becoming the physical manifestation of the postwar European divide between Soviet and Western ideologies in one vast concrete structure.
The Soviet-allied East German authorities built the Berlin Wall from August 1961 to stop a flood of defections to the democratic West through the city.
The 96-mile barrier essentially surrounded West Berlin, which was an enclave within East Germany.
When Reagan made his speech, there was a glimmer of hope with the elevation of Mikhail Gorbachev to the position of general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
He had initiated a new policy of ‘openness’ which resulted in major cultural changes. Seizing on this opportunity, Mr Reagan urged that the wall be torn down.
Just two years later, East Germany’s hard-line communist leadership was forced from power.