Germany aims to buy famed embassy in Prague

18th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

On September 30, 1989, Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, after a meeting with his Soviet counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze, appeared on the embassy's balcony to tell the crowds that they would be allowed to flee to freedom in West Germany.

Berlin -- The German government said Monday it aims to buy its embassy building in Prague, the site of a key milestone to the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago.

Foreign ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner said Berlin had long hoped to purchase Lobkowitz Palace, home of the embassy, and that talks with the Czech government had advanced ahead of the anniversary of the Wall's collapse on November 9, 1989.

That year, thousands of East Germans hoping to flee to the West massed for weeks at German embassy in Prague.

On September 30, 1989, Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, after a meeting with his Soviet counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze, appeared on the embassy's balcony to tell the crowds that they would be allowed to flee to freedom in West Germany.

"Dear compatriots, we came to inform you that your permission to leave the country..." Genscher said before the rest of the sentence was drowned out by cheers.

The watershed moment was instrumental in convincing the communist East German regime that it was futile to maintain the policy of trapping its citizens behind concrete and barbed wire.

Less than six weeks later, East Germany opened the border, paving the way to German unification 11 months later.

Ploetner said Germany was in "intensive negotiations" with the Czech government to acquire the embassy building and that an independent expert would be named to determine its value.

The purchase may be arranged as a trade and entail giving a building of similar value in Berlin to the Czechs to use as a new embassy.

"One possibility" would be a building used by the US government before its new embassy next to the landmark Brandenburg Gate was completed last year.

AFP/Expatica

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