Entertainment behind the scenes
John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan made powerful speeches directed against the Berlin Wall from inside the capitalist enclave of West Berlin during the Cold War and the two American presidents have been given their due credit by historians for the roles the two famous speeches in 1963 and 1987 might have played in the events leading up to the collapse of the Cold War barrier on Nov. 9, 1989.
But it’s quite possible that another American may have actually had a more direct influence on the Berlin Wall’s demise — Bruce Springsteen . He may well have played a more important role in galvanising a generation of East Germans fed up with living behind a Wall, a contribution that I would argue has been largely overlooked by historians.
The American rock icon put on a stirring concert in front of a record-breaking crowd of 160,000 in East Berlin 20 years ago — on July 19, 1988. That was 16 months before the Wall collapsed and at a moment when Communist East Germany was in the throes of change — Mikhail Gorbachev’s “perestroika” reforms had been let out of the bottle in the Soviet Union but hardline East German Communist leaders wanted little to do with those reforms.
The East German Communists had nevertheless let Springsteen in for his concert in 1988 after his earlier attempts to perform had been thwarted. But they angered the American by putting the label “concert for Nicaragua” on tickets and posters. So half-way through his three-hour concert, which was broadcast on tape delay by East German TV, Springsteen stopped for a short speech: