Thousands of people were waiting for us at the airport, a sea of black-red-golden flags fluttering in the cold December wind in between an almost forgotten white-green flag of the Saxon State. Once the plane had taxied to a standstill, I climbed down the escalator and saw Hans Modrow, who was awaiting me about 10 meters away from the steps with a blank expression on his face. I then turned around to tell the Minister of the Chancellery Rudolf Seiters: "It's done."
Whether or not you believe that Springsteen's concert really had something to do with the fall of the Wall depends on how much you believe in the power of rock and roll. But I think what is beyond doubt is that the concert is a glorious example of the influence that rock can have on people who are hungry and ready for change.
On the evening of the 9th of November 1989, when the message came in that the Berlin Wall was open, I was sitting in the Chancellery in Bonn, in a meeting on the issue of housing migrants from the German Democratic Republic. The session wasn't continued. Everyone stormed to the nearest television sets.
The end of the Cold War, epitomized by the Berlin Wall destruction, quickly came to be seen by the West as its own triumphant victory and the USSR/Russia's unconditional surrender. Hence Russia was to be treated as a second-rank country, a regional power at best, that was expected to obediently follow whatever directions may have come from Washington and Brussels. The problem was the Russians did not share this view of themselves as a defeated nation obliged to accept the victors' terms.
In that Christmas season trip to Berlin, Bernstein would famously conduct two performances of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with an international orchestra and chorus assembled from the four countries that once shared the city -- the U.S., Russia, England and France. And he would change one word, so that the "Ode to Joy" became the "Ode to Freedom."