Hungary is no longer a commuter between East and West, President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble wrote in an article for Magyar Nemzet on the day of German reunification.
Its famous poet Endre Ady once called his Hungary a “ferry nation”, constantly commuting between East and West. Thirty years ago, for the refugees coming from East Germany it was primarily a bridge to freedom.
Rmx.news points out that Hungary has long since been a bridge country. Many Germans from East and West came here on vacation, occasioning many tiny and temporary reunifications of families. Hungary still considers Germany a neighboring country with which it does not share any borders.
This vicinity gained a new dimension in the summer of 1989, when tens of thousands of Germans fled the East, seeking refuge they found in Hungary. To this day, Germans remember the words written on a memorial of that summer’s flight to the West: “A prisoner nation has opened the door of its cell so another prisoner nation can reach freedom”.
Hungary’s decision to let the East Germans go was neither easy nor without its risks. At the time, nobody knew how Gorbachev’s Soviet Union would react – and there were 80,000 Soviet troops stationed in Hungary.
But the Eastern people – from the Balkans to the Baltics – gathered their courage and shook their fear and helplessness. “Those who learned fear earlier knew it no more,” father Imre Kozma, the priest who first gave refuge to the East Germans said.
Hungary’s decision to open its borders led directly to the fall of the Berlin Wall two months later. As Helmut Kohl famously said: “Hungary knocked the first brick out of the Berlin Wall.”