Berlin Wall, when I asked Pertini what he had seen on the other side and he replied in dismay


In front of the Berlin Wall, Sandro Pertini he went up with the burgomaster Dietrich Stobbe on an observation tower, where someone handed him binoculars. The Italian president grabbed it and adjusted the lens until, with a grumble, he focused on what he wanted to see: on the other side of the wall, in fact, the control tower of the East sector was sticking out, where a couple ofVopos"(The East policemen) were doing the same:" See? They just spied on me! "Exclaimed Pertini, shaking his head, and muttering" there is no freedom when there are walls ”. He frowned, adjusted his glasses and assumed the expression I had already seen on other occasions, when he thought he was a witness of ainjustice.

It was September 20, 1979, a beautiful day “unusually warm for Berlin"He confided to me Enzo Piergianni, an Italian colleague who lived in Colony and worked at the editing of the broadcasts in Italian of the Wdr, the Westdeutscher Rundfunk, then the most listened to radio of the West Germany, "The summer is ending and the sun honors Pertini …", the head of a state that for many Germans meant the country of the holidays and the heat. Our president maintained a grave and frowning air, and for once decided to communicate his state of mind with silence.

I asked him if he intended to comment on what he had seen, precisely because I had managed to capture that whisper of dismay and anger. He stared into my eyes and replied: "I saw what you saw, what you all saw. You can imagine what my mood is. Don't ask me any more ". In hindsight, he was skilled dissociation: his profound indignation would have caused a diplomatic incident and the Quirinale cautiously wanted to avoid it.

Moreover, Pertini had already expressed his thoughts in the speech the day before on the occasion of the toast with the president of Federal Republic of Germany, Karl Carstens: “Advances in technology and communications are reducing the spaces that at other times seemed vast. Borders lose the meaning they had. It is the time of the great international communities. THE'United Europe must be one of these … ", and it was clear the indirect reference to the Wall that divided Germany in two," a united Europe can do the work of mediation in defense of peace (…) if it is true that Europe was the cradle of reason, reason prevails and security comes to total disarmament it is checked. Hunger and misery can validly be fought. The arsenals of war are emptied, sources of death; let the granaries be filled, sources of life. Utopias, these? How many utopias have become reality … ".

Here, I thought back to these words that Pertini pronounced, ten years before the collapse of a symbolic, atrociously symbolic barrier that split Europe and freedom into two. Whatever you say and write today, that Wall was the physical, tangible, more than ever threatening, representation of the death of every right, of the democracy: an unbreakable frontier between east and west, the symbol of the Cold War.

Thirty years ago we were happy and euphoric for what was beginning to happen in Berlin, with live TV shows showing the exuberant crowd, in celebration, the young people singing, playing, dismantling pieces of that four-meter-high concrete fence, 155 kilometers long, and in those hours nobody was so presumptuous as to hypothesize the future, the destiny and evolution of democracy, the relocation of the Great Powers, the collapse of theSoviet Union, the irruption of the Communist China in the empire of the most unbridled capitalism … no, only after a few days did we begin to judge, to analyze, to tell us that political and economic liberalism had finally won the challenge with Communism, and that it would become the example to follow for those who had believed in the primacy of socialism.

Today, liberal democracy no longer seems to us to be the legitimate model, but one of the models that are not always virtuous: indeed, its evolution has created ever greater inequalities and a political class that is often infamous, incapable, incompetent (we well know the Italians). There is now a parallel anti-liberal space, as suggested Michel Duclos, former French ambassador who has just written the essay Le Monde des nouveaux autoritaires (released in France on November 13th for the types ofInstitut Montaigne et editions de l'Observatoire), which brings together several populist rulers and nationalists deployed against traditional democracies, and that has in Donald Trump the most important figure, a sort of commander-in-chief who leads the populist wave and orders its authoritarianism.

I confess, therefore, that on 9 November 30 years ago no one was prepared for the historical upheaval that would have been unleashed following the sudden dismantling – in fact, to destroy the Wall it would have taken months – not just a physical but above all a frontier ideological, democracy versus regime, freedom against dictatorship.

Even the same Mikhail Gorbachev, only two months earlier, he had been ambiguous in his meeting with the former German chancellor Willy Brandt, received in the Kremlin, who asked him: "In your opinion, Mr. Secretary, will the Germans be able to return to live under the same roof one day?" (Gorbachev's former advisor, Andrei Gratchev told us so often foreigners who worked in Moscow).

That day in September of 1989, Gorbachev was able to juggle, since a precise answer, in one way or the other, would have triggered dangerous reactions, and the ones he feared most were within theUSSR: "The Wall has not always existed, so nothing says it will be eternal. We leave the answer to History ".


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Peter Gomez

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