A lifetime full of professional intense experiences

Alonso Álvarez de Toledo y Merry del Val, born in 1931, was graduated in Law in 1957 and entered the diplomatic service. He had been destined, among other positions, in the diplomatic representations of Spain upon the United States, France, Mexico, South Africa and Federal Republic of Germany, besides holding several senior positions in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Álvarez de Toledo was also the Spanish ambassador in the former GDR (German Democratic Republic). Later, he was the Spanish State Chief of Protocol. Finally, his diplomatic life ended as Spanish ambassador in Luxembourg.


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Photo: Alonso Álvarez de Toledo y Merry del Val, Madrid.

Spain became a member of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) on May 30th, 1982, when the Spanish government was headed by socialist Felipe González. Thereupon, on May 31st, it was going to be convoked a referendum to Spanish people for whether join in the NATO or not. Mr. Álvarez de Toledo was at that time working as a Business Manager in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and he was told to deliver a letter to Perez-Llorca – who was in charge of negotiating the entry of Spain into NATO. In the letter was the approval of such enrolment, but neither the president nor anyone left wing were aware of this. That was because, at that time, the left wing supporters had a strong anti-NATO feeling and they were convinced that if they had known it, they would not have let Spain enter in it.

The problem was that May 30th was a Sunday, and Perez-Llorca did not give audience to anyone during the weekend. But Mr. Álvarez the Toledo held the strings in such a way as to ensure that Spain was joining the Organisation. He finally managed to hold a meeting with Pérez-Llorca, and we could say that we are in the NATO due to the intelligent action and the exceptional work done by Mr. Álvarez de Toledo.

Mr. Álvarez de Toledo began to be the German Democratic Republic’s ambassador on December 28th, 1985. The historical well-known Berlin’s Wall, which divided East and West Germany, was opened on the night of November 9th, 1989.

 “In 1989, Berlin’s Wall had for some time his expiry date, and it was opened when absolutely nobody was expecting that to happen.”

Mr. Álvarez de Toledo saw it with his own eyes, as he was at the forefront. That night he invited “Informe Semanal”– weekly magazine from TVE – team to dinner, and later they were going to a jazz concert. However, they suddenly heard the announcement of the Wall’s opening and he proposed them to approach to the nearest customs office. Upon arrival, they saw about fifty people. So he approached and asked the guard if the Wall was opened, but he was told that it might the following day. Shortly after, he watched a couple of people going through and he went back to ask if they could go, if some documentation was necessary and if they could come back. The guard said they did not need any specific documentation and, of course, they could return. So they were among the first ten people who passed through Berlin’s wall, and “Informe Semanal” were the only ones who recorded this historical event.

“West had been contributing consciously to maintain Berlin’s Wall (…) We were convinced that both, the Iron Curtain and Berlin’s Wall, were the East-West balance’s essential elements. An unstable, but indispensable balance for peace.”

Before the fall of Berlin’s Wall, Mr. Álvarez de Toledo had an experience, in which him and others NATO’s states’ representatives met for fifteen days in a Faraday Camera – a fully isolated and protected from external recording room. One day, it was said that E. Honecker – the president at that time of the German Democratic Republic – had died. Although that was only a rumour, Mr. Álvarez de Toledo thought that Mr. Honecker was in his last days, but those moments he was living were going to be historic, even he had not died yet, he would sooner or later. He was fully conscious of making history, so he began to write his experiences.

Among his publications are: “The country that never existed” – a diary of this last Spanish ambassador of the GDR (German Democratic Republic); “An orange and dusty tram” – a book in which he deals with topics such as NATO or Berlin’s Wall; and finally, “Footnotes” – the most significant and relevant book he has done, because in it he invites us to revive some of his memorable scenes, apart from the ones named above, such as: II Hispano-American Conference, I Jew-Palestinian Conference, Inauguration of Barcelona’s Olympic Games in 1992, or Expo in Seville in 1992.

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Photo: “Footnotes. Memories of a lucky man”, Alonso Álvarez de Toledo.

Mr. Álvarez de Toledo is now retired. His life is full of stories, some less positive than others, for instance, his most uncomfortable moment as ambassador was when he had to translate F. Franco – Spanish dictator who died in 1975 – but overall, the ups outnumbered the downs.

By Paloma Álvarez Carrillo


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