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History's tide on Berlin's streets

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 by Carrie Beliles

When the annual Berlin March for Life was held last year, my husband, Ben, our four children, our friend Breanne, and I drove the seven hours from where we are stationed with the United States Air Force (Ramstein Air Base), near Kaiserslautern, to downtown Berlin.

On Friday night, we attended a pre-march meeting, with leaders from the pro-life movement here in Germany, as well the Netherlands and members of European Dignity Watch, a pro-life NGO working with the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

European Dignity Watch is a small, dedicated group of people who do what they do because it is right—not because it’s popular or a good career move—and some of them have been involved in the movement for years.

We encouraged them by relating what we are doing with our center, where I serve as executive director. We primarily minister to American military personnel and dependents, but we also serve locals and foreigners living in Germany who are without access to everything they need to raise their children. Unfortunately, we are one of the only pregnancy help centers in Germany.

The meeting concluded with a prayer, as well as laying out the final details for the next day’s march.

Unlike pro-life marches in the States, the March is extremely intense in Berlin. The counter-protesters were chanting things like, "If Mary would've had an abortion you wouldn't be bothering us now," and, "If you had been aborted we wouldn't be bothered.”

Before we started to march, the organizers asked us to remain quiet, and not to dignify the protesters with a response. The counter-protesters came equipped with whistles, which they constantly blew to try and distract us from hearing the speakers at the beginning of the march.

They continued to try and drown out our singing or speaking with shrill whistles as the march got underway.

The Berlin riot police were out in force, and seemed prepared to put down any real disturbance by the counter-protestors. As we marched along, a burly German priest told us to move into the center of the marching crowd to keep our children safe. Noticeably, there were no other children marching. Our four little children got quite a few smiles, and had a few pictures taken throughout the day.

The organizers handed out large wooden crosses at the beginning of the march, and our 4-year-old, Faith, carried one as she rode in the stroller down the streets of Berlin.

The walk led us along some of the most historically significant sites in world history. We began in front of the Reichstag, which was burned in late January, 1933, serving as the pretext for Hitler’s declaring of martial law. The Reichstag was later restored, and now serves as Germany’s capitol building.

Following the Reichstag, we were almost immediately in front of the Brandenburg Gate, through which Napoleon marched when he conquered Berlin in 1806, and in front of which, President Ronald Reagan said those immortal words to Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

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We followed on past the post-Cold War era American embassy, with a haunting memorial to the Holocaust to our left, the symbol of 6 million murdered Jews. Only a few hundred yards past this site, Hitler himself killed himself along with Eva Braun, and his ashes were scattered in the Chancellery garden (which now is, ironically, the parking lot of the apartment where we were spending our three days in Berlin).

We followed the line marked in the road almost the entire distance where the Berlin Wall had stood from 1961 until 1989, dividing East and West Germany. We marched on past Potsdamer Platz, once divided by the Wall, but where East now meets West in Europe, and turned left onto Leipziger Strasse, heading back east.

We then passed the building that had served as headquarters for the Luftwaffe during World War II and later was the executive building for the East German government.

The dividing lines are much more stark here than in the United States. People here don’t have time for platitudes and half-truths. The sides are as clearly delineated between good and evil as they have ever been in Berlin. 

What is also clear here in Berlin, as the whistles of the counter-protestors and the humming of Amazing Grace fade into memory, is that history does change, movements do matter, and nothing stays the same forever.

Just contemplate the tide of history in this place over the last 70 years. What an encouragement to realize that we may one day place abortion on the trash heap of history, along with so many oppressive regimes of the not-too-distant past.

Meanwhile, the killing continues. As must the praying.


Carrie Beliles serves as executive director for Heartbeat Crisis Pregnancy Center at Ramstein Air Base in western Germany.