Reagan memorial idea splits Berlin long after Wall

Wed Dec 22, 2010 7:45am EST
 
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BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - A dispute over whether Berlin should honor late President Ronald Reagan for his 1987 speech urging the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall has divided the German capital.

Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and other conservative leaders have criticized the local center-left Berlin government for its refusal to commemorate Reagan's 100th birthday in February.

"Naming a street after this great honorary citizen of Berlin would be very welcome," Guttenberg told Bild newspaper on Wednesday, adding his name to a list of Christian Democrats angry at the Social Democrat-led Berlin city government.

The SPD rules in Berlin with the reform communist Left party, which traces its roots to Communist East Germany's ruling SED party that built the Berlin Wall in 1961.

In 1987 -- two years before the Berlin Wall collapsed -- Reagan delivered a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate and made a public appeal to then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

Reagan has remained a controversial figure in Berlin, a left-leaning city. There are no memorials to Reagan in Berlin.

By contrast, U.S. President John F. Kennedy enjoys a towering reputation with a square, school and museum named after him. Kennedy visited West Berlin in 1963 and made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.

(Writing by Eric Kelsey; editing by Paul Casciato)

 
<p>The United States flag flutters behind former President Ronald Reagan as he addresses a crowd at the opening of the Reagan Library in Simi, California in this November 4, 1991 file photo. REUTERS/Gary Cameron</p>