June 12, 2007 - December 31, 2007

“Tear Down This Wall” – Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate

June 12th of this year will be the twentieth anniversary of the day when President Ronald Reagan spoke at the then impassable Brandenburg Gate and made a direct appeal to Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

At the time, most of us dismissed this appeal as a bit of show business – Ronald Reagan wanted to emulate John F. Kennedy and go down in history with a Berlin quotation. Three years later, matters looked quite different, and Reagan’s words had become a familiar catchphrase throughout the world. To refresh our memories: On November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall opened, and one year later Germany was unified. Only one year after that, the once mighty Soviet Union was no more.

The Allied Museum is taking the twentieth anniversary as an opportunity to recall the speech and the speaker. What was the actual occasion for this speech? Against which backdrop of Berlin’s German and international history must we view the US president’s speech? And how did he arrive at that famous phrase? The exhibition offers information to help us find the answers to these and similar questions.

From the beginning, US president Ronald Reagan was viewed as an enemy by the peace movement that formed in the early 1980s and opposed the NATO dual-track decision. On the evening before the speech some 20,000 people demonstrated in the center of West-Berlin. Unfortunately, the demonstration ended in street battles with the police, which no longer had anything to do with the actual occasion for the protests. Twenty years later, we have the opportunity to reexamine the perspectives of that time in the light of what we know now.

The exhibition presents objects and documents as well as film and photographic material and was made possible by generous loans. The primary lender was the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, which kindly opened its archives and placed important exhibits at our disposal. It is to American and German museums, a number of public and private collections and archives as well as many contemporary witnesses from Washington, Los Angeles, Berlin, Bonn and other places that we owe the large number of objects on loan.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication bringing together contributions by contemporary witnesses and experts. As always at the Allied Museum, the texts can be read in German, English and French. We are rather proud that then Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker and Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl have contributed words of greeting to the exhibition, thereby affirming the historical significance of the US president’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate.

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