On every 9/11: Hats off to Hungary!
Shortly after World War II and the founding of the Soviet-style East German Government, hundreds of socialist elites: authors, actors, and other intellectuals led by the famous German playwright, Bertold Brecht (think The Threepenny Opera) poured into East Germany from wherever it was that they sat out World War II.
Mind you, these bright people had to know about Stalins Show Trials, about Stalins execution of hundreds of Red Army military officers, and about the Ribbentrop/Molotov Treaty that allowed Stalin and Hitler to crush and then divide Poland in half. Some of them might even know that the USSR was responsible for the Katyn Forest Massacre that murdered over 4,000 Polish Officers. Nevertheless, Brecht and his comrades said, to each other, in essence: Comrades, we will move to East Germany and do Socialism right this time and create a Marxist peoples paradise.
Of course, Brecht and his ilk went into the comfortable Nomenklatura, while the ordinary East Germans, the Proletariat, had to suffer the privations that inevitably result from a Soviet-style planned economy.
But, after 19 years of their East German peoples paradise (1949-1968) , the living conditions for even the East German Nomenklatura were so crappy that the elites were telling their communist leaders, Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker, that East Germany needed an economy more like that of prosperous, land-of-plenty West Germany.
Meanwhile, the best and brightest (maybe the bravest) of the youth of East Germany and East Berlin were sneaking their way into the freedom of the West. The young brains needed to build the peoples paradise were risking and even losing their lives to flee.
But East German youth were not the only young people out in the streets in 1968. Recall, that same year Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. There was Tet 68 in South Vietnam. The USS Pueblo was captured by the North Koreans and the entire crew held in captivity. There was Chicagos riot-ridden Democratic National Convention. Many U.S. college students were protesting the Vietnam War, either in general or about how poorly the war was being managed from Washington, D.C.
In 1968, the turmoil was compounded because by then many East German and West German youth were old enough to realize that their parents and/or grandparents were to some degree complicit in the rise of Hitler and for the horrors of National Socialism. Granted, many teenagers criticize their elders. But to think that your parents and/or grandparents were probably war criminals had to hurt.
All of these pressures continued to build inside East Germany and inside the Berlin Wall until 9/11 (yes, 9/11) 1989, when the government of Soviet satellite Hungary did something that caught virtually everyone by surprise.
Recall that communist Hungary bordered free Austria and Austria shared a border with free West Germany. Without fanfare, Hungary told its border guards to allow anyone who wished to do so to enter Austria. No question asked.
East German "tourists" flooded into Hungary and it was not just to sample the Chicken Paprikosh. From Austria, East Germans flooded into West Germany, urging those left behind to break down the Berlin Wall and join them. As they say, the rest is history.
Suggested reading: Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond, 2019. Putins People: How the KGB Took Back Russia And then Took on the West, by Catherine Belton, 2020. Plus, any of the fine novels by Alan Furst that so accurately depict life behind the Iron Curtain.
©2023. William Hamilton.