The Catholic University of America


Professor Rett Ludwikowski, at podium, led a symposium that examined the circumstances and historical meaning of the fall of the Berlin Wall, torn down for good 20 years ago this month.

The Fallen Wall 

Anyone old enough to remember clearly will never forget watching the world remade in November 1989. Glued to the television, people around the world saw 40 years of bitter, ironclad division between Eastern and Western Europe stripped away in a matter of days, crowned with the symbolic tearing down of the Berlin Wall that had partitioned Germany’s leading city into two worlds, communist and non-communist, since the end of the second World War II.
Fueled by the will of the people, the bricks, guard towers and razor wire of the Berlin Wall were quickly swept aside by an irresistible yearning for freedom and for a better quality of life.
But the events captured so indelibly by the news cameras were long in the making, say those who were there.
Among them was Catholic University law school professor Rett Ludwikowski, who grew up in communist-dominated Poland. As the director of the law school’s Comparative and International Law Institute, Ludwikowski sponsored a retrospective assessment on Nov. 17 of those fateful days in Berlin, 20 years ago this month.
Held in conjunction with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the program, “Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall,” assembled a panel of international experts to discuss the events leading up to the fall of communism in Europe and its impact upon the world we live in today.
Discussants included Larry Wright, senior desk officer for Germany, U.S. State Department; Peter Erben, chief of party, Pakistan, International Foundation for Electoral Systems; CUA law alumnus Chad Vickery, 2007, regional director for Europe and Asia, International Foundation for Electoral Systems; and Professor Ludwikowski himself.
Ludwikowski escaped the Soviet oppression of Poland in 1982, seven years before its yoke over Eastern Europe was finally thrown off. Even then, however, there were signs that communism’s collectivist philosophy was wearing thin. Ludwikowski reminisced about passing along the streets of Cracow the day before he left his homeland, and noticing that some policemen were intently trying to scrub some painted words off a wall. Even beneath the whitewash, the writing was still visible: “Proletarians of all countries, forgive me – Karl Marx.”