CBS Reporter Laments Economic Downturn After Fall of Berlin Wall

Mark Phillips, CBS Reporting for CBS Sunday Morning, correspondent Mark Phillips marked the 20th anniversary of the fall the Berlin Wall by noting the economic difficulty East Germany has faced in the aftermath: “It still isn’t easy for many. East German industry without government subsidy could not compete. The economy shrank by an estimated 50%.”

Phillips mourned the loss of state-run industries after the oppressed nation was freed from decades of communist oppression: “The eastern landscape is littered with the ruins of former state-supported enterprise. A million people have gone west looking for work.”

Earlier in the report, Phillips credited those responsible for the wall’s collapse: “The main players on that night 20 years ago were the people of East Berlin....But it was the behind-the-scenes players who really determined events that night, mostly by doing nothing. Then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had refused to back the desperate GDR regime. Then President George Bush refused to gloat as the wall came down. Then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl went on to become the leader of a reunited Germany.” Ronald Reagan slipped Phillips’ mind.

Phillips sounded nearly identical to reporters at the time of the wall’s collapse. On the March 16, 1990 CBS Evening News, correspondent Bob Simon wondered: “...what about East Germany’s eighty symphony orchestras, bound to lose some subsidies, or the whole East German system, which covered everyone in a security blanket from day care to health care, from housing to education?” He concluded: “Some people are beginning to express, if ever so slightly, nostalgia for that Berlin Wall.”

Here is a full transcript of the Sunday Morning segment:
10:13AM

CHARLES OSGOOD: Berlin residents are remembering where they were 20 years ago tomorrow, when the infamous wall began to come down. This picture by journalist Peter Turnley is from a photo essay you can find on our Sunday Morning website. As for Berlin today, here’s Mark Phillips.

MARK PHILLIPS: The anniversary of the fall of the wall may not be until tomorrow but the party has already started. A U2 concert used the Brandenburg Gate as the convenient back drop. When the wall ran through it, the gate sat in the middle of a divided city and was the symbol of a divided world. Now the search lights are merely visual effects piercing the night sky. Not scanning no man’s land for East Germans trying to escape to the west.

The main players on that night 20 years ago were the people of East Berlin who, after months of mounting protests, finally called the bluff of the East German authorities. But it was the behind-the-scenes players who really determined events that night, mostly by doing nothing. Then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had refused to back the desperate GDR regime. Then President George Bush refused to gloat as the wall came down. Then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl went on to become the leader of a reunited Germany, an outcome neither he nor any of the others had planned but one they now say could not have happened without them.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I might harbor a single hope, it would be that future generations might look back to the moment when mankind really got it right.

BENJAMIN WALTER: I remember my grandma calling. There is a never-ending convoy of cars going to the west side. What is going on?

PHILLIPS: Benjamin Walter was 14 when the wall fell. He didn’t leave. He stayed in East Berlin, where he’s carved out a nice career in IT marketing and marvels at the changes in the life he might have led.

WALTER: Maybe I would have escaped, left the country, leaving, working in some rundown East German company wouldn’t have been easy.

PHILLIPS: It still isn’t easy for many. East German industry without government subsidy could not compete. The economy shrank by an estimated 50%. The eastern landscape is littered with the ruins of former state-supported enterprise. A million people have gone west looking for work. Many of them may have come here this weekend to Berlin’s east side gallery, formally known as the Berlin Wall. Part of the commemoration of the coming down of the wall has been to refurbish the parts of it that are left. Some of the original paintings are being redone for the occasion. An ugly interlude in history literally being painted over. And 20 years later, another party like no other about to be relived.

OSGOOD: CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips in Berlin.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC