09 November 2019 08:35
by Jenny Erpenbeck, born in East Berlin in 1967 The morning after the fall of the Wall, I'm sitting in a seminar. With the opening of the Wall, the two peoples of the divided city plunge together. But a short time later comes the realisation, on both sides, that something strange is being swept in through the hole in the Wall. Why don't I shed tears of joy a few weeks later, when the border crossing around the corner from my apartment is opened? Why do I rush as quickly as possible past the truck where a West Berlin paper store owner is standing on the tailgate, handing out free Christmas wrapping paper to us poor East Germans?
Why do I prefer to take the longer route to the university on days when I'm plagued by gloomy thoughts – a route that skirts the west? Facebook Twitter Pinterest Jenny Erpenbeck: 'For just one moment longer, history holds its breath.' Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian But for just one moment longer, history holds its breath and is open on both sides. For a few weeks, it doesn't occur to anyone that the opening of the Wall could have anything to do with the country next door, the Federal Republic. Then one chant gives way to another on the street outside: "We are the people" gradually becomes "We are one people." Were our entire lives really nothing but a decades-long period of waiting that finally paid off in the end? Like me, they were all East Germans.
Not in the other political groups, either, whether it's New Forum or Democracy Now. The confrontation of east and west blocs seems too deep rooted. In October, after the detentions and trouble on the GDR's national day, my husband and I decide to stop leaving the children with the neighbours when we go to our political meetings. But what I see today doesn't just take my breath away, it leaves me reeling: the Wall is open! I can't even look, so I go and fetch a bottle of brown schnapps from the cellar; it's been sitting there since it was given to us as a present. My English stepmother – a foreigner – was outraged in the summer of 1989 when she saw East Germans proudly waving their new passports outside the West German embassies in Prague and Budapest.
For 25 years she had had to renew her residence permit over and over again, and these people were being granted a West German passport just like that? And why couldn't all the children born in Germany to non-German nationals also get German passports? Didn't the kids in my class with non-German parents have much more in common with me, with us, and with West Germany, than that lot over the border in the east? Facebook Twitter Pinterest David Wagner: 'Going out on a week night was a way of showing that we were beyond caring about school.' Photograph: Jean-Marc Zaorski/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images We always went there on Thursdays because Fridays were hippy music and Saturdays were overcrowded and besides, as 18-year-olds in our final year, going out on a week night was a way of showing that we were beyond caring about school. But I do remember that we had a Latin exam the following day and that the lesson, like the entire school day, was dominated by long and heated discussions about what was happening in this mysterious place called the GDR. My memory of the 9th and 10th of November is mainly that of an extraordinary televisual experience, that vividness that – for the first time – made me feel like something real was happening. The people who met me in the mirrors were warped like monsters, with huge heads and short, thin legs. When I think back on the early days after the Wall fell, I am reminded of that place: I lost my sense of direction. I put one foot in front of the other, cautiously, and laughed too loudly when I walked into a mirrored wall. In November 1989 I was 15 years old and I attended a boarding school in Eisenhüttenstadt, a socialist model town on the Polish border. We went to West Berlin on 12 November. Later I wrote in my diary: "On the streets the Trabbis from the east seem so small compared to the huge Mercedes. Sabine Rennefanz: 'Thirty years later, it's still hard to say what really happened.' I watched him as he wrote new catchphrases by the late West German business minister Ludwig Erhard, father of the so-called Wirtschaftswunder [the "miracle" of West Germany's rapid economic recovery after the second world war], on the blackboard: "Social welfare benefits in the German Democratic Republic were far too generous given the country's productivity." "Unemployment is completely normal." Herr Weinlein was now the new social studies teacher. One year later, building the Wall was an act of inhumanity. Thirty years later, it's still hard to say what really happened. In pictures: The rise and fall of the Berlin Wall Stephen Jaffe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images West German children interact with East German border guards after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In the early 1960s, East German officials had a problem on their hands: In the years since the end of World War II, millions of their citizens had fled the communist state for neighboring West Germany. A barrier that would slice through Berlin, sealing off East Germany--and East Germans--from the West. The wall symbolized the deep ideological divide between the Soviet bloc and the West at the height of the Cold War. Revolutions in Poland and Hungary paved the way for massive demonstrations in East Germany. On November 9, 1989, the state opened its borders with West Germany. This week marks 30 years since that momentous day, when crowds of East and West Berliners jubilantly clambered onto the wall, chipping away at both its graffitied (Western) and unadorned (Eastern) sides. Decades later, ghostly reminders of the wall that divided the city remain. Google Doodle on 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The search engine-giant called this moment a peaceful revolution that signalled the simultaneous end of the Cold War and the beginning of reunification of East and West Germany.In 1989, "Tor auf!" (Open the gate!) roared the crowds gathered at the Berlin Wall on this evening.Winds of change were blowing across Europe, the then-new leadership in Russia, Poland, and Hungary were hopeful of ending 28-year long, strict travel restrictions in East Germany. The website said that "an official spokesman's hasty statement gave reporters and TV viewers the mistaken impression that East Germany would be allowing free travel between East and West Berlin during a government press conference"."Within hours, a massive crowd gathered at the wall, far outnumbering the border crossing guards. Sometime before midnight, the officer-in-charge of the Bornholmer Street checkpoint defied his superiors and gave the order to open the gate," Google said.Word spread quickly, and over the next few days, 2 million jubilant Germans crossed the border, some singing, dancing, and toasting the start of a new era while others began physically dismantling the wall.Guther said he was honoured to have worked on the subject and drew inspiration for the artwork from stories and old photographs of his parents who were in Berlin 30 years ago and witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, according to Google."I hope that people start fighting border walls all over the world, helping people living in divided or separated countries, and giving refuge to those fleeing their home countries because they have no choice," Max Guther said.The Berlin Wall was built on August 13, 1961, dividing the East and West Berlin with a barbed wire and concrete structure. "The west and the east had been separated for most of my lifetime. I had grown up watching people trying to escape from East Germany and being shot, so I knew that when that wall came down all that changed," said Marine Corps veteran Mike Park.