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Dr. Hamre's Remarks at the Allied Museum Opening, Berlin-Zehlendorf, Germany

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. John J. Hamre
June 27, 1998
 Minister Ruehe, thank you for hosting this grand event.


I am honored to be here with you, Minister Robertson, State Secretary Masseret, Mayor Diepgen, Doctor Trotnow [Director of the Allied Museum], Doctor Stoelzl [Chairman of the Allied Museum Association], veterans who have served in and for Berlin, and the people of Berlin.

Fifty years ago this week, as Joseph Stalin's Iron Curtain descended around a free Berlin, the last battleground of a World War became the first battleground of the Cold War.

In the early days of the blockade, Berlin Mayor Ernst Reuter declared, "People of the world, look at Berlin!" ["Volker der Welt, schaut auf Berlin!"]

The world did indeed look at Berlin. And what it saw was not just a city, but a symbol -- a symbol of resolve, a symbol of defiance, and, ultimately, a symbol of freedom.

When the world looked at Berlin, it saw Berliners facing overwhelming odds, turning fields into runways and unloading the food and fuel of freedom from a bridge in the sky.

When the world looked at Berlin, it saw the allies' commitment to a free Germany. A commitment made real by the rumble and roar of ceaseless flight. By over 277,000 flights delivering more than 2.3 million tons of food, fuel and medicine.

The ceremonies of this week take us back to that historic moment when some of freedom's darkest days were transformed into one of freedom's greatest triumphs.

This museum is very special to all of us, but it is particularly impressive to those of my generation. For around us we see artifacts from the battle of ideas that defined our century. We see the historical signposts of a struggle that defined our lives.

When we were children, the roar of the Berlin Airlift was just passing from the sky. We came of age during the long twilight struggle between tyranny and freedom that was epitomized by Berlin.

We remember being teenagers when President Kennedy stood before the Wall and confidently stated that he "looked forward to that day when this city is joined as one and this country and great continent of Europe [are joined] in a peaceful and hopeful globe." We remember when President Reagan said, "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

The day Kennedy looked forward to has now come to pass. The action President Reagan demanded was accomplished. The hopes of all freedom-loving people in the world have been answered. And we stand in this wonderful museum today to celebrate the triumph of those hopes, and to thank all those who made this day possible.

Today the people of the world still look at Berlin as more than just a city. The new capitol of a reunited Germany remains a symbol of freedom. And this museum will remind future generations that freedom is never free. It will stand as a testament to the fact that the spirit of liberty can tear down the mightiest walls of oppression.

Today, that spirit lives on, inspiring and nurturing the trans-Atlantic alliance and energizing our efforts to shape the Europe of the future. It is alive as we build new bridges and extend the hand of NATO membership to Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. It is alive in Partnership for Peace, and in our efforts to build foundations of cooperation with countries in transition, like Russia and Ukraine. And it is alive as we cool the cauldrons of hate in Bosnia and try to prevent Kosovo from boiling over. Indeed, the spirit of Berlin -- the spirit of liberty -- is helping us reach across old divides to build a new Europe for a new century.

There are many reminders of that spirit in this museum. One of those symbols that resonates in the hearts of Americans and all the allies is the guardhouse that was Checkpoint Charlie -- the final checkpoint on the road from the American sector into East Berlin. "You are now leaving the American sector," read the sign near the checkpoint. At other Allied crossing points one would read "You are now leaving the British sector," or "You are now leaving the French sector."

For decades, Checkpoint Charlie and other Allied checkpoints symbolized both the last defense against tyranny and the passageways to freedom. Checkpoint Charlie now sits in this museum, its job as a guardhouse done.

Now, let us commit to build a Europe in which we need no Checkpoint Charlies. Let us commit to build a Europe where there is no need for concrete walls and barbed wire to keep people in and ideas out. Let us commit to build a Europe that is itself a gateway to openness and freedom for all humankind. And let us always recall Berlin as the ultimate symbol of that freedom.

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