Almost thirty years after the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989, journalists who covered the events gathered at the Overseas Press Club to reminisce. “It feels like another lifetime ago, doesn’t it?” remarked OPC past president Deidre Depke, executive producer of The Takeaway, who moderated the discussion. She was joined by panelists Carroll Bogert, John Daniszewski, Jonathan Kapstein, and Andrew Nagorski, who provided their insights into what life was like in East Germany and other Eastern bloc countries, what led to the fall of the wall, and how it changed the world.
Andrew Nagorski, who spent more than three decades as a foreign correspondent and editor for Newsweek, compared events leading up to the fall as a “five-act play” consisting of multiple protests and failed revolutions. People were eager for a change in the system, and the fall of the wall brought liberalism and capitalism to the now-united Germany, he said.
There was a feeling of triumph among Western leaders, but also a feeling of hesitance to gloat and risk upsetting the Cold War balance of power that had led to decades of peace, said John Daniszewski, vice president for standards and editor-at-large for The Associated Press, who was posted in Warsaw during that period. Germans themselves also became a bit disenchanted with their new government once the realities of capitalism set in and people realized it came with its own set of problems.
The panelists also discussed the current state of both Russia and Germany in global affairs. With Britain on the verge of leaving the European Union, the power in the EU is shifting eastward and the value of the euro is linked primarily to the performance of the German economy. “Germany and the Deutsche Mark are now the winners of the last half-century,” said Jonathan Kapstein, a veteran correspondent and bureau chief for Business Week and past president of the Press Club Brussels Europe, referring to financial power shifts over time.
Carroll Bogert, president of The Marshall Project, who covered the collapse of the Soviet Union for Newsweek, described a complicated legacy of events in Europe 30 years ago, though it still represents the end of decades of misery in Europe. “Despite its historical value and sense of permanence, it’s also fragile,” she said.