Doubts raised about Sarkozy's Berlin Wall memories

10th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Sarkozy shared his memories of the momentous event in a comment posted on his Facebook page describing how he took a pickaxe to the Wall on November 9, 1989, after crossing into East Berlin on the first day the gates opened.

Paris -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy raised eyebrows Monday with his account of how he rushed to Berlin 20 years ago to witness the fall of the Wall as questions arose over the accuracy of his story.

Sarkozy shared his memories of the momentous event in a comment posted on his Facebook page describing how he took a pickaxe to the Wall on November 9, 1989, after crossing into East Berlin on the first day the gates opened.

A picture of then 34-year-old Sarkozy chipping away at the graffiti-marked Wall was posted on his page and Sarkozy wrote of "the beginning of a period of great freedom in Europe."

The president recalled how he rushed to Berlin on the morning of November 9 two decades ago because he sensed major events were unfolding.

But ex-prime minister Alain Juppe, who accompanied Sarkozy, had a different account.

In an interview Juppe gave to TV5 in October which is making the rounds on the Internet, he said that it was only on "the 10th or the 11th of November" that a group of French politicians went to Berlin.

On Monday, after critics began calling Sarkozy's account into question, Juppe updated his own blog to admit he could not recall the precise date.

"On the 9th in the evening (or several days later, my memory is not clear on the precise date) there was a freezing cold," he wrote on his blog.

Juppe wrote that the French politicians, including Sarkozy, crossed Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin and then returned to the West where "we heard the sound of hammers" knocking at the Wall and stopped to take part.

Sarkozy wrote that he chipped away at the concrete slabs in East Berlin, further raising questions about his recollections.

"We then headed for Checkpoint Charlie to see the eastern side of the city and finally confront this wall and I was able to take a pickaxe to it," recounted Sarkozy on his Facebook page.

"Around us, families were gathering to knock down the cement. Some shared their feelings with us, their new ambitions and their emotions after decades of separation," he added.

However, the picture of Sarkozy shows graffiti on the Wall, indicating he was in West Berlin, as there were no such markings on the eastern side.

The Elysee palace stuck by Sarkozy's version of his Berlin memories and an official from the now defunct RPR party told journalists that Sarkozy and Juppe had indeed set out for Germany on the ninth of November.

Philippe Martel said he was told by a friend that "things are happening in Berlin" and that he alerted Juppe, then head of the RPR party, who said: "Let's go then, let's take Sarkozy along." Sarkozy was the party's deputy leader.

Adding to the confusion, Juppe had previously written in an account of the fall of the Wall in his book "La Tentation de Venise" (Venice's Temptation) that he arrived in Berlin on November 16.

Another privileged witness to history mentioned by Sarkozy in his account was Prime Minister Francois Fillon who Monday said that indeed he had joined the French politicians that night.

"The president's dates and mine appear to be almost as important as the fall of the Berlin Wall itself," lamented Fillon to journalists.

Sarkozy joined Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders in Berlin on Monday for emotional celebrations of the defining moment 20 years ago at the end of communism in Europe.

France was to put on its own extravaganza to mark the 20th anniversary, with a dazzling sound-and-light show on the Place de la Concorde in central Paris.

Inspired by Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich's impromptu concert at Checkpoint Charlie two days after the Wall fell, the Paris show was to highlight that France now shares the joy of German reunification despite earlier misgivings.

French foreign ministry archives show that then president Francois Mitterrand and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher fretted over reunification after the Wall's collapse caught them by surprise.

AFP/Expatica

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