25 Year Anniversary

berlin2By Marquese Robinson.

The Berlin Wall was opened 25 years ago on November 9, 1989. More than a million people in Berlin took part in numerous commemoration events between November 7 and 9, 2014. The climax of the celebratory weekend was the LICHTGRENZE or frontier of lights, which took place at 7pm on Sunday. More than 6, 000 balloons had been installed throughout the city to outline the place that the Berlin Wall formerly stood, and one by one they were released into the air. The weekend and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin wall was emotional for many and a once in a lifetime experience for most. In order to get a better and more intimate perspective of what this weekend symbolizes, I spoke with two people.

Jochen W. Professor

How do you remember the opening of the Berlin Wall?

We were living very close to the actual wall in Neukölln – we walked around the block and there was unusual commotion – but the actual information we heard through the news on TV and were numbed by the reality of the unthinkable – we had a 9 months old child so we decided not to go out but keep tuned on the news – we went to Sonnenallee check point the next day and Trabbi s kept on crossing the border  and were greeted with great cheers and Sekt ( sparkling wine) that weekend is unforgettable as we listened to speeches by Jessie Jackson, Willy Brandt and Helmut Kohl – the city was electrified and if I were to choose one word reflecting the Zeitgeist and a comment shared by Germans it would be – Wahnsinn – Insane.

How do you remember the integration of East Germany into West Germany?

The phrasing of the question reveals very much the hidden agenda of the unification process – The East was to be westernized. In retrospect many East Germans felt the celebration and excitement was followed by a harsh process of tailoring the former GDR to the profile of the Federal Republic. The economic, political and social impact on the GDR was immense and for many painful as the new system meant giving up basically everything they had become used to. The biggest transformation took place on July 1st 1990 when the currency, economy and social union officially took place. The positive remembrance of former East culture was coined by the term – Ostalgie – a spin off from – nostalgia. For non GDR citizens it is hard to comprehend the discrepancy of – living ordinary lives – and being walled in and detained if you challenged the system of the GDR

What does the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Wall mean to you?

I came to Berlin 10 years before the wall came down but visited the GDR almost every year several times – a day pass for East Berlin was easy to obtain and I also participated in several week long academic excursions to East German cities. We had made friends with an East German family in the late 80´s and we are still very close. We could observe the development of their three kids and what an impact and consequences political decisions had on their lives – We learned through them so much because we accompanied them personally – With all the difficulties they encountered one essential assessment of the outcome of unification remains with them eternally and stands out – Freiheit.

Berline1

Matthias P. Artist

How do you remember the opening of the Berlin Wall?

I heard the horns of cars in the street. I knew that something must be going on. I turned on the radio first and then the television. I didn’t believe it. I grew up close to the inner German border in Hildesheim lower Saxony so I was constantly confronted with the wall.

 How old were you when the wall was opened?

19.

Did you think it would last forever?

Yes and no. As a political reality and the situation in the West I thought it would last forever. But on the inside I knew that it couldn’t last forever. Walls never last.

How do you remember the integration of East Germany into West Germany?

Overall I think it was great and positive. I took a hiking tour through East Germany after the wall was opened. Everyone I met was so friendly and I felt in complete solidarity with them. I never stayed at a hotel because I was always offered a place to stay. At the same time I felt sorry for them because I knew they would be exploited by many Germans from the West. Many of them would be sold faulty cars and appliances, and be the victim of fraudulent services, because the same warm and open greetings that were extended to me would be extended to everyone else. But I eventually moved to former East Germany after reunification and I still live there today.

berlin3Do you think that the integration of the two countries was fair and equal?

No. There was mass privatization of eastern land and many criminal acts. It could have been done better in my opinion.

What does the 25th Anniversary of the opening of the wall mean to you?

A lot. It’s far and close at the same time. It’s hard to believe that a quarter of a century has already passed.

Do you think your generation and my generation are experiencing the anniversary differently?

Yes. I think the level of awareness is not the same. For people my age who lived and experienced the divided country it’s more emotional than anything. We can remember how things used to be back then and how drastically so much has changed. For your generation you have to rely on sources instead of experience; that’s a huge difference. But I think many young people understand how important the opening of the wall was.




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