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Why Did the Wall Fall, 30 Years Ago?

November 9 marked the 30th anniversary of the peaceful breach of the Berlin Wall—the symbolic high point of the Revolution of 1989, which would be completed seven weeks later by the fall of the Czechoslovak communist regime and Václav Havel’s election as that country’s president. A few days before the actual anniversary, German foreign minister Heiko Maas penned a brief essay on the reasons why the Wall came down, which was striking for what Mr. Maas didn’t mention.

He did not mention NATO’s steadfastness against a vast Soviet campaign of agitation and propaganda over western military modernization in the 1980s.

He did not mention President Ronald Reagan or Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—he didn’t even mention West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

From my point of view, however, the most glaring omission in Mr. Maas’s essay was his complete lack of attention to the pivotal figure in the Revolution of 1989, Pope St. John Paul II. Just as oddly, the foreign minister neglected to mention the moral revolution—the revolution of conscience—that John Paul II helped ignite and that gave the Revolution of 1989 its unique human texture. This is bad history. And bad history always raises warning flags about the future.

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