The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1994Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech in Berlin – 8 September 1994

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at the Schauspielhaus Theatre in Berlin on Thursday 8th September 1994.


President Herzog, President Mitterrand, Chancellor Kohl, Secretary of State, Governing Mayor, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Today is a memorable day. Let me begin by thanking the German government and the German people for their generous tributes to the Allied Forces in Berlin, thank you for this very special farewell to mark the departure of the allies from this remarkable city.

It is this evening a pleasure to be here in this wonderful setting, a pleasure that none of us could have enjoyed only 5 years ago. Outside we have seen the magnificent restoration of one of the most beautiful squares in any European city. But restoration is not just about buildings, we are here today in a city made whole again, in a united country and in a Europe restored.

President Mitterrand talked a few moments ago about European architecture. Here around us we see the sort of architecture that I would like to see for Europe, the French church in the square outside matching the German church across the square standing for a tradition of hospitality, free speech and tolerance. This theatre itself, this theatre is an echo of a different age, the age of reason, of Locke, of Voltaire, of Kant and of Benjamin Franklin.

So it is fitting that we should be meeting here today, for if we are wise, Europe today stands on the threshold of a new age of reason, we have before us new possibilities for peace, freedom and friendship that we have never had before. Today there is no West Berlin and East Berlin, no West Germany and East Germany, no West Europe, no East Europe, the points of the compass have lost their post-war political connotations and I hope and I pray that they have lost them for good.

We owe this great opportunity to many people, first to the men and women of the Armed Forces themselves, British forces, American forces, French forces, and standing behind them the whole of NATO, including the Bundeswehr. We came to Berlin as occupying forces, we stayed as protecting forces but we leave as friends.

Earlier this afternoon we attended a moving ceremony, a ceremony to commemorate those who gave their lives during the airlift. The Berlin Airlift marks the precise point when enemies became allies. We honour those who lost their lives in the airlift, as ceremonies today in a united and a free Berlin demonstrate to all that they did not die in vein and that they will always be remembered.

We also honour all of those stationed here who were prepared to give their lives in the defence of freedom and for the sake of Berlin, it is to their commitment that we owe today the new opportunities that exist across Europe.

The second people I would honour today are the statesmen – Adenauer and Churchill, Truman, Bevan, Kennedy and De Gaulle, and of course Ernst Reuter, Governing Mayor of this city in some of the most difficult days and years. All of these, all of them in different ways defended and sustained Berlin. There later came others, led by the Governing Mayor, Willy Brandt, who began again the slow process of turning former enemies into present friends, first the defence of freedom and then the hand of friendship, and the final act where the hand is taken and the friendship sealed will forever recall the name of one of the great statesmen of the post-war period, Mikhail Gorbachev, and of course Chancellor Kohl your own name as well.

We owe this opportunity for a new beginning in Europe to the people, it was the people of Berlin who rebuilt this city from the ruins of war, it was the people whose courage and humour sustained Berlin during the tensest moments of the Cold War, and it was the people of the streets of Berlin who eventually brought the Wall down.

The story of freedom always begins with the people. On the streets of Berlin, on the streets of Leipzig, Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and Moscow the story is always the same. The service of our soldiers, the wisdom of our statesmen the courage of our people, these have given us the opportunity for a new age of reason in Europe, that all of these historic changes have come about without bloodshed gives us hope that this may be so.

While Europe was still divided the process of building the institutions we need to preserve peace and to spread freedom had already begun, the old world of the balance of power has gone, instead we have the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the CSCE, above all we have the North Atlantic Alliance and the European Union. The peace, freedom and prosperity that these have brought to all our countries must now be carried Eastward across the old borders of the once divided Europe.

War between us has become unthinkable. Next year we will celebrate fifty years of peace in Europe, something none of our predecessors has ever known in the long history of our countries. I look forward to welcoming our partners and allies, including your country, Chancellor Kohl, to our celebrations on 7th May next year to mark this anniversary.

We are here today to bid farewell to the allied forces in Berlin. When they arrived Berlin was in ruins, while they served here it was divided, now they leave it, a city restored, making ready to take its place again as the seat of Germany’s government and parliament. We came as adversaries, we stayed as allies and we leave as friends.

But our links with this city will not diminish. Through our new future Embassy on Willem Strauf [phon], our businessmen, our culture, our architects, and above all our people, we remain committed to Berlin and to Germany’s future, British people will continue to play their part in the life of this fine city.

President Herzog, Chancellor Kohl, Mr Governing Mayor, on behalf of the British forces in Berlin I thank you for your warmth and hospitality to British servicemen and women down the years. As they go home from today they leave a part of their hearts behind here in Berlin, and as they go home today I join them in celebrating your success.