Statement on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Berlin Wall

August 13, 1981

Twenty years ago the city of Berlin was divided by barriers erected to seal off East Berlin from the rest of the city. Those barriers were soon replaced by a massive concrete wall -- a wall that today symbolizes the imprisonment of millions of Germans under Communist rule.

Although this wall stopped the flow of more than 3,000 persons a day who were escaping just before it was built, it could not completely stifle the human longing for freedom -- tragically, more than 70 people have lost their lives trying to climb across the Berlin Wall to safety and freedom.

The Berlin Wall is a dramatic example of the desperate and cruel extremes to which totalitarian regimes will go to deny their subjects contact with other Europeans. From the Baltic Sea to Southeastern Europe, a murderous barrier of minefields and barbed wire, manned by guards who shoot to kill, stands as a monument to the inhumanity of those who would make the individual the servant of the state.

All who treasure freedom and human dignity should never accept nor take for granted this lethal barrier to freedom that stands today in the heart of Europe.

The regimes responsible for the barrier must be constantly reminded that their elaborate efforts to stifle human freedom with walls, mines, gunfire, and barbed wire are a colossal admission of failure.

What can the world think of rulers who must build prison walls around their own nation? What can the world think of leaders who fear that their own people will flee their homeland at the first opportunity?

Today throughout the world men and women who cherish freedom pray for the day when the Berlin Wall and other such monuments to tyranny are only a bitter memory -- a day when the people of East Europe can once again enjoy free contact with their neighbors in the West.