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Lees hier de tekst van de toespraak die Z.E. dhr. Martin Kotthaus, Ambassadeur van de Bondsrepubliek Duitsland bij het Koninkrijk België, op 23 januari 2020 tijdens de opening van de BRAFA Art Fair in Brussel gehouden heeft. (Enkel in het Engels)
Dear Mr. President of the BRAFA,
Dear Mr. T’Kint de Roodenbeke,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to open with you this Gala-evening of the 65th edition of the BRAFA. 2020 is a very special year. We are celebrating 75 years of peace in Europe, the 75th anniversary of the liberation auf Auschwitz-Birkenau, 75 years of the end of the Nazi dictatorship in 1945, and also the 30th anniversary of the reunification of the two Germanys in 1990.
The fall of the Berlin Wall has enabled Berlin to be united, to become a whole city again, and has also allowed for Germany to be a united country again and – maybe this is the most important factor – allowed for a united Europe. And I mean a Europe united by the peoples, which is a unique, an unprecedented event in the history of our old continent. This time, it had not been arms or lines of succession that brought European states together by force, but it was the free will of the peoples, who by expressing themselves through demonstrations and elections, that had led their countries to Europe’s unity. The trauma after World War II had been overcome; the wound in the middle of the continent could therefore heal. I would like to quote the German Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt in saying that
“What belonged together was growing together”.
What a change of cultural, political and economic horizon this was for us all! Suddenly, all those parts of Europe we had only been able to read about in books dating before the First World War were again accessible to us. New perspectives opened up and from time to time, new questions had to be asked. However, two things are certain: the German reunification could only succeed with the assistance of our partners and only in the European context; and also Europe has never been more peaceful, more prosperous, more secure and more guided by the rule of law than today. This goes for the whole of Europe. In the European Union, we share common values and a sense of living together as a community. We look back on a common cultural tradition and we share one goal: to grow beside each other and closer together unitedly – in peace!
Walls came tumbling down and bridges were built. The BRAFA does just the same and this year even a little more so in the proper sense of the word, as this year, on the occasion of the celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the reunification of Europe, five huge, five indeed very large and very heavy pieces of the Berlin Wall are going to be put up for auction for a good cause. So, if you were ever looking for a small, but immensely expressive gift for your dearly beloved one that slightly exceeds the standard size of an impressive diamond – do seize today’s opportunity, by all means! And keep in mind that, on top of everything, this auction serves a good cause.
What does the Berlin Wall mean for us today? One could say, for sure, that it has changed from a horror, a monstrosity into a memorial for peace and unity in the world. Next to Solidarność in Poland, the Monday-demonstrations in the former GDR, Glasnost and Perestroika in Russia and the courage of Mikhail Gorbachev, the end of the cold war and the so well-known words “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” pronounced by the US president Reagan – next to all this the fall of the Berlin Wall stands as THE symbol par excellence of freedom and fraternity in recent history. The wall could only fall because we all acted as one. Even today, crowds of tourists from all over the world come every year to Berlin in order to gaze at the remnants of the Wall, for instance at the East Side Gallery.
The Berlin Wall has thus become an art or fashion-entity, the symbol of Berlin, yet at the same time remaining a historic monument and the place reflecting the horrors of the past. Anyone who has lived at the time when the Wall was standing or who has even experienced its fall, is linked to it by an individual history, a very own story. Everybody knows where he or she was, when the Wall fell.
I wish to thank the organisers of the BRAFA, especially you, dear Mr. T’Kint de Roodenbeke, for reminding us all of this historical moments we share, for letting us participate in the Art Fair and also do a good deed… To you and us all together, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish a pleasant experience at the fair, as well as an exciting wall-auction, so that we may achieve much good with the proceeds.
Thank you very much for your attention.