LONDON • No one present in the German capital three decades ago this week when the Berlin Wall fell would ever forget the experience. The uncontrollable cries of joy from family members reunited after decades of enforced separation, the hordes of bewildered young people daring to walk past border guards who only a few hours before would have shot them dead, the spontaneous hugs between complete strangers; even the most hardened cynic could not fail to be moved.
Nor did anyone doubt the huge strategic significance of the event. For the Wall was more than just a line of fortifications, mines and electrified barbed wires; it was the hated symbol of Europe's division, a ghastly monument to the Cold War. Once that Wall collapsed, Germany reunited and became the biggest country in Europe, transforming in the process the entire continent. This was raw history in the making.