La noche del 9 de noviembre de 1989, una multitud «empujó», casi literalmente, lo que era un símbolo de la fuerza y el poder de un sistema político. Esa «apertura» ni fue planeada para esa noche por las autoridades, ni fue el resultado de un proyecto oculto de los gringos o de Gorbachev.
Fue un accidente.
En The Collapse, la historiadora Mary Elise Sarotte arma el rompecabezas de las pequeñas decisiones -accidentes y errores- que terminaron en la apertura accidental del muro.
¿Esos protagonistas sabían que la pequeña pieza colocada con su decisión iba dibujando -como un rompecabezas- un diseño no deseado, ni pensado para ese momento? La sorprendente respuesta es «¡No!». Esta historia no deja de ser irónica: un sistema político, económico y cultural que se justifica como el producto más acabado, necesario y científico y necesario de la historia, se derrumbó por una serie de eventos inesperados, absurdos e insignificantes. ¿La historia puede dirigirse científicamente?
O más bien, lo que se cayó fue la máscara de un cadaver. El rey, hacía mucho tiempo que iba desnudo. Ese árbol ya no tenía vida.
Sarotte no se pregunta -hasta donde he leído del libro- qué le da consistencia a un régimen político para que no se caiga de esa manera. Ni qué hace fuerte a una comunidad. Pero no puedo dejar de pensar en la experiencia de quienes sostienen que quien mueve a la historia es la cultura: la verdad que anida en el corazón, que genera comportamientos solidarios y acciones que elevan el espíritu humano.
Ahora sí. Estos son algunos párrafos de la Introducción del libro de Sarotte:
«Until that evening [Nov 9th], no one expected that the Wall would fall. Instead, well into 1989, escaping East Germany remained a fatal exercise. The last killing by gunshot had occurred in February of that year; the last shooting at the Wall, a near-fatality in broad daylight, had taken place in April; and the last death during an escape attempt on the larger East German border had happened just three weeks earlier. And the border between the two Germanys was, of course, only a part of the larger line of division between the two military blocs in Europe, both armed with thermonuclear weapons. Up to the night of November 9, 1989, as in the preceding years and decades, the East German ruling regime had maintained forceful control over the movement of its people.
The regime had not, in fact, intended to part with its control on the night of the ninth. The opening of the Wall was not the result of a decision by political leaders in East Berlin, even though a number of them would later claim otherwise, or of an agreement with the government of West Germany in Bonn. The opening was not the result of a plan by the four powers that still held ultimate legal authority in divided Berlin: the United States, the United Kingdom, and France in the West, and the Soviet Union in the East. The opening was not the result of any specific agreement between the former US president, Ronald Reagan, and the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. The opening that night was simply not planned.
Why, then, was it happening? Enormous crowds were surging toward both the eastern and western sides of the Wall. The East German regime struggled to maintain order not only at the Brandenburg Gate but also at the Wall’s border crossings—for there was no crossing at the gate itself—with armed troops, physical barriers, and other means. At some locations, security forces succeeded in regaining control over the crowds, but the people kept coming. Again and again, East Germans told the border officials, in so many words, You should let us pass. Again and again, those same officials—who only weeks if not days before would have turned weapons on them—let them out. Why?”
“But when we reexamine the immediate causes of the collapse of the Wall on the basis of firsthand evidence and interviews, the significance of accident and contingency—rather than of planning by political leaders—rapidly becomes apparent. The opening represented a dramatic instance of surprise, a moment when structures both literal and figurative crumbled unexpectedly. A series of accidents, some of them mistakes so minor that they might otherwise have been trivialities, threw off sparks into the supercharged atmosphere of the autumn of 1989 and ignited a dramatic sequence of events that culminated in the unintended opening of the Berlin Wall.”
“This evidence not only makes the accidental and contingent nature of the opening of the Wall plain but also reveals that the people who brought about the fall of the Wall on November 9 were, by and large, not internationally known politicians. Rather, they were provincial figures, deputies rather than bosses, and even complete unknowns. Roughly a dozen of them will loom large in the pages to follow: they were individuals such as Katrin Hattenhauer, a teenage rebel thrown into solitary confinement for her political views; Uwe Schwabe, a former soldier turned public enemy number one; Christoph Wonneberger and Hans-Jürgen Sievers, two ministers at Protestant churches in the Saxon region of the GDR, convinced that change had to come and that they could help to usher it in; Roland Jahn, a very well-connected staffer at a West Berlin TV station; Aram Radomski, an East German drifter brutally forced apart from his girlfriend and seeking revenge; his friend Siggi Schefke, dreaming of forbidden travel to the West; Marianne Birthler, a youth counselor in East Berlin; and midlevel loyalists such as Helmut Hackenberg, one of the party’s many second secretaries; Gerhard Lauter, an ambitious young department head in the East German Interior Ministry; Igor Maximychev, the deputy Soviet ambassador in East Berlin; and, finally, Harald Jäger, a second-tier passport control running the night shift at an East Berlin border checkpoint. Most of these people were little known beyond their immediate communities, if even that, but they would all contribute significantly—and at times unintentionally—to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. They would become the catalysts of the collapse.”
“By examining how it happened in East Germany in 1989, we can learn how and why dictators’ subordinates choose to disobey orders, and so do not use violence against unarmed protestors even though they have instructions to do so, or how and why oppressed people choose to extend trust to total strangers in crises, and so begin to form large, durable communities of protest. The latter point is particularly important, and surprising. As we will see, dictatorial leaders who had worked together for decades had no trust whatsoever in each other, while dissident leaders in groups riddled with secret police spies exhibited a startling openness to, and confidence in, outsiders willing to help.”
“In summary, it is worth spending time looking at the details of how and why the Berlin Wall opened on November 9, 1989, because they add up to larger lessons that matter. That night represented the moment when a peaceful civil resistance movement overcame a dictatorial regime. It is all too seldom that such a peaceful success happens at all, let alone leaves a magnificent collection of evidence and witnesses scattered broadly behind itself for all to see. By looking at this evidence, listening to these witnesses, and learning this story—as it actually unfolded, not as we assume it did—we gain new respect and understanding for people who try to promote peaceful change in the face of dictatorial repression, for the odds that they face, and for the ways in which outsiders can actually help to promote their success instead of merely assuming that they have done so.”