Official visit to Germany: Memorial event in Berlin
Governing Mayor of Berlin,
Speaker of the Berlin House of Representatives,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear all of you young people who are with us here today,
Der Kronprinz und ich sind tief beeindruckt, heute hier an der Gedenkstätte der Berliner Mauer zu sein, – der Mauer, die vor genau 34 (vier und dreizig) Jahren fiel.
We were 16 years old. The Crown Prince was in Oslo, I was in Kristiansand.
We gathered in front of the TV with our classmates at school. And like thousands of young people around Europe, we felt we were part of an historic moment in time.
With a sense of disbelief and collective victory we watched the images of people dancing on top of the wall – this number one symbol of oppression and separation. We will never forget the TV footage of thousands of people streaming across the border between what until then had been two separate worlds.
People laughed, cried and hugged each other. There were strong feelings.
And we, young people in Norway – and around the world – shared these feelings and this profound moment in history with them, with you.
Freedom had triumphed, democracy had triumphed. We felt a strong sense of hope, of optimism.
That a better world was possible.
This was the feeling of those November days 34 years ago.
Fortunately, the Berlin Wall is now history. Following a peaceful revolution, Germany was reunified as one country.
Today, Germany is a guarantor of peace and freedom in Europe.
We admire Germany’s willingness and ability to confront the past. To foster reconciliation on behalf of the European – and global - community. It was not a given that Germany ould take on this role, and it has not always been easy. But you have succeeded, and we thank you for that.
Here at Berlin Wall Memorial, we remember, with deep gratitude, the many individuals who had the courage to stand up and fight for freedom - on behalf of all of us, both here in Germany and around the world.
But what is a wall? Walls are physical structures, but they can also be built inside of us.
They can be built of concrete, glass or metal. They can also be built of intolerance, lies and hostility.
Walls are created in the space between ‘them’ and ‘us’. They are built on a foundation of past wounds and inherited conflicts. Of a lack of willingness to accept the perspectives of others.
But as human beings equipped with free will, we always have a choice.
We can choose to build walls.
And we can choose to tear them down.
On this particular day here in Berlin we also commemorate the November Pogroms, on November 9, 1938.
We will continue to remember, and never forget, the unbearable suffering of the Jews during the second world war.
Once again, unfortunately, we have wars going on in our neighbourhood. We are devastated by the human suffering in Ukraine and in the Middle East. But we must not give up our hope in the power of the human will to resolve conflicts and tear down barriers. Standing here by the wall memorial today, we are reminded that the German people did just that.
That gives us hope.
The fall of the Berlin Wall ushered in a new period of optimism.
It was the start of a move towards greater freedom and democracy across large parts of the world. Even if the world didn’t quite develop the way we hoped for during those optimistic November days in 1989, the legacy of that moment lives on.
It is more important than ever to keep it alive.
Many of you here today – young people from Germany, France and Norway – are about the same age as the Crown Prince and I were when we followed the historic events 34 years ago.
I encourage you – and all of us – to hope.
Because even when things are difficult and the future looks bleek, it is important to remember that we create the future. We all create the future together. So we need to continue to tear down walls.
Because – at our best – we realize that there is no ‘them’ and ‘us’.
There is only ‘we’.