Fifteen years since the end of the Wall

by Chris Bertram on November 9, 2004

Today it is fifteen years since the breaching of the Berlin Wall. The BBC has its reports and some video footage . Reuters have a good item on the continued polarisation of the city. The Independent analyses the mismanagement of the transition. The New York Times writes of ambivalence on the part of former East Germans. Further comment from FAZ , Deutsche Welle , Le Monde . A great day for human freedom, but 9 November is also a day of “shame and reflection” as Gerhard Schroeder puts it, since the anniversary of the end of the wall is also that of Kristallnacht in 1938.

{ 9 comments }

1

raj 11.09.04 at 12:20 pm

It is interesting to note that the fall of the Wall on 9 Nov 1989 was something of an historical accident. On 9 Nov, Gunter Schabakowski, a member of the Polituro of the East German Communist Party (SED) was giving an international press conference, which was being carried live over East German television. During the press conference, he was handed a note, on which the series of revised East-West Berlin travel regulations were listed. At the end of the press conference, he read the note. When he was asked when the revised regulations were to go into effect, he responded “Sofort, unverzueglich” (immediately, instantly). The rest has been shown on Western television. The press conference had been widely watched in East Berlin, including the guards at the Wall, who were thrown into some confusion as to what they should do about the crowds converging on the Wall. Having seen the press conference, the guards let the people pass undisturbed.

In point of fact, though, the items on the list were not to go into effect “sofort, unverzueglich,” they were to be discussed in a Politburo meeting the next day. The Wall would have fallen anyway, but that it did fall on 9 Nov was another accident of history.

2

Henry 11.09.04 at 1:53 pm

Nov. 9 is a big day in German history apart from the fall of the Berlin Wall and Kristallnacht. Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated on Nov. 9, 1918, and the Beer Hall Putsch, which started on Nov. 8, 1923, was stopped on Nov. 9.

3

Doug 11.09.04 at 2:47 pm

In the old days, people from Schoeneberg never went to Kreuzberg. Why would they go to the East now?

(And really, are the social and geographic barriers in, say, London or New York or, for all I know, Sydney or Johannesburg any more permeable?)

4

dave heasman 11.09.04 at 3:31 pm

“(And really, are the social and geographic barriers in, say, London or New York or, for all I know, Sydney or Johannesburg any more permeable?)”

Well, on our rock n roll list the other day several of us were describing how adventurous it was in our mid-teens to go from our East London haunts over to Edmonton or Hammersmith to see Eddie Cochran.
But that was a long time ago.

5

Doug 11.09.04 at 10:27 pm

Not to blow our own horn too loudly, but over at Fistful of Euros, we’re getting great stories of the days right after the fall of the wall from our audience. Firsthand reports of history…

6

raj 11.09.04 at 10:43 pm

I suppose I should have posted the title of the book from which I got my information, for anyone who might be interested. It was Chronik des Mauerfalls by Hans-Hermann Hertle. My copy is in German, and I have no idea whether it was translated into English.

7

raj 11.09.04 at 10:44 pm

I suppose I should have posted the title of the book from which I got my information, for anyone who might be interested. It was Chronik des Mauerfalls (Chronicle of the Fall of the (Berlin) Wall) by Hans-Hermann Hertle. My copy is in German, and I have no idea whether it was translated into English.

8

mark 11.09.04 at 11:38 pm

In 1962 when I was about 4, my parents took me to Berlin to see the wall in its original state(my father was an army oficer stationed in Germany). I remember it vividly, especially the coils of barbed wire and shards of broken glass which topped the original wall. And the memorials to those who had been killed trying to escape. And the Volkspolizei overlooking the whole thing. It was chilling. I don’t think the intended lesson quite took with me, though. I think of it whenever I see coiled razor wire encircling some commercial property here in the land of the free.

9

Luc 11.10.04 at 3:53 am

It was chilling.

It was a whole lot later, but when my schoolclass went on a trip to West Berlin, we had the obligatory one day trip to the East side. Entered the border zone, waited some time, while making fun of the female East German police officers, someone shortly checked the bus and we could drive on, without any serious checks. One or two years earlier when my parents took me on a short trip (from Finland) to Leningrad, there was a security check. Car, bags, suitcases, everything.

So maybe the East German thing was just a propaganda ploy to look good to Dutch school kids.

When I went back after the reunification, the city looked a lot better, but the Alexanderplatz in East was a lot less lively.

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