Photo: Berlin Wall Memorial by Alice Hudson
On the occasion of the 25 year anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the people that live in the aftermath share their thoughts on whether the Wall and it’s meaning affect their lives in any way.
When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 many people, especially the ones living in the Eastern part of Germany, were in disbelief. No one had expected the sudden removal of the Wall, after all it had lasted for 18 years and became a part of most people’s lives. Most Germans who experienced the immediate presence of 153 km of cement were certain that they wouldn’t witness a united Germany in their lifetime. Nevertheless, the spectacular pictures of people legally crossing the border for the first time go down in history.
In November of 2014 thousands of people gathered in Berlin to relive the moment of freedom and jointly celebrate 25 years without the Iron Curtain, a landmark in German history and a much longed for step towards democracy and unification.
Being born five years after the wall was taken down, I never experienced life in a country divided by masses of concrete, yet its ruins remain as a symbol of totalitarian control and limited freedom.
As a citizen of the former German Democratic Republic, traveling to another city was unfathomable. Merely a minority of people, mostly those in the higher ranks of society, had the privilege to leave the eastern bloc in order to visit their relatives and loved ones on the other side of the wall.
Twenty-five years later my generation no longer faces those problems. As part of the European Union, my passport allows me unlimited travel to anywhere I want: the world is my oyster.
Increasing numbers of young Berliners are able to explore the world, from its large cities to its most exotic corners.
Since Germany’s recent 25th anniversary of the fall, I was intrigued to find out whether my generation was affected by the wall or its repercussions. I spoke to the head editor at student newspaper Studere, part of the University of Potsdam in Berlin. Twenty-two year old Law student
Simon Maturana shared his thoughts on the Berlin wall and the separation of east and west in reference to a generation that was born in the 90s.
‘’Although I didn’t experience the fall of the wall first hand, I still get shivers watching videos, documentaries or films that address the subject. I think we don’t really differentiate between east and west because we never really had to. However, the reality of society sometimes forces us to think in those terms, for example the higher pensions they get in the West.“
Furthermore, he explained that there is still clear evidence of former occupation such as the Autobahn that was built after an American model in the West and street railways in the East.
When I asked him whether he felt privileged to travel anywhere in the world he explained that he didn’t see it as a privilege but rather a human right to go where ever you want to. He elaborated how in the GDR or similar dictatorships, this right was simply seized. Maturana added how impressive and moving it is to him to see a revolution which had taken place peacefully.
I had to agree with Simon. I was convinced that my generation was no longer hindered by mental barriers of the wall and that we had managed to fully implement a sense of openness in our every day lives. After all, Berlin belongs to the most popular cities in the world. I grew up in a multi-cultural environment with thousands of tourists that travel to Berlin every year to enjoy it’s rich culture and youthful atmosphere. However I was wondering what someone who had experienced the before and after would think of my generation.
Former MP of the CDU and architect Thomas Molnar, 63, was born in the West but consciously moved to the GDR shortly before the fall of the wall. He later became a member of the first united German Federal Parliament in Berlin in which he represented different eastern districts.
As an individual who had encountered himself in the eastern and western bloc, he represented the small majority of people who had experienced both sides and their effects.
Growing up in Bavaria, Molnar explains that traveling was no issue and claims ‘’You didn’t need a Visa except when you were traveling to the eastern bloc. Even for America I only had to fill in a little sheet of paper on the airplane, it was that simple.“ When I ask him about his first impressions of the former GDR he describes the smell on the streets and in the houses as one of his most vivid memories. He adds: ’’They were still heating by coal and there was no environmental awareness.“
When our conversation turned towards the younger generation Molnar added: ’‘A certain kind of dictatorship is still visible, even in your generation. Children are influenced by their parents, parents that still believe democracy is only achievable through dictatorship. They grew up in a state where no one taught them to be independent and they all shared the hope that the West would make everything better. That eventuated in great disappointment later on.“
As in any dictatorship, there are people that enjoy living under certain rules for the price of being secure and protected. After the fall of the wall many former GDR citizens felt hopeless and lost in a world of countless possibilities. Others were never willing to sacrifice their personal freedom and with the downfall of the iron curtain new prospects came along. Today we don’t really know the difference anymore, but being solely responsible for your future can be exciting and scary at the same time.
By Nina Molnar