Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recalled the March Revolution of 1848 and recognized the courage of the people fighting for liberal freedoms at the time. "We know that the revolution failed at the time, on the barricades and in the parliaments. The old powers soon regained the upper hand throughout Europe," he said at a "Republican Banquet" in Berlin's Bellevue Palace. "But the spirit of freedom was in the world, and it no longer allowed itself to be stifled by any authoritarian state or dictatorship."
March 18 is a "special day in the history of German democracy," emphasized Steinmeier, according to the previously published speech. He recalled that on March 18, 1793, the German Jacobins established the first republic on German soil in Mainz. And on March 18, 1990, the first free parliamentary elections took place in the GDR. "March 18 stands for freedom, equality and humanity, for the heart of modern democracy. It stands for democratic confidence, for departure in times of upheaval. For me, March 18 is the day of civic courage," said Steinmeier.
Starting in France, revolutionary uprisings broke out in many cities of the German Confederation in March 1848. In Berlin, they escalated to barricade fighting on March 18 and 19, with several hundred fatalities. People took to the streets against oppression, poverty and hunger, demanding freedom of the press and assembly, as well as free elections and a constitution. They forced the installation of liberal governments in the member states of the German Confederation and elections to a constituent national assembly, which met in May in the Paulskirche. The revolution was soon crushed with violence, its gains rolled back.
Steinmeier emphasized, however, that a new spirit of citizenship and a new democratic self-confidence had awakened on the streets and in parliaments. "Everywhere there were people who no longer wanted to accept their situation as God-given, who passionately fought for new ideas, who were willing to take responsibility - for themselves, for others, for the community."