Friday, November 6, 2009

Remembering the Fall of the Wall

Various political figures remember their sentiments on learning that the Berlin Wall had come down. I share Bruno Le Maire's reaction: I wasn't sure what it would mean. A divided world had been such a part of my inner landscape for my entire life that I couldn't quite grasp its sudden disappearance. Six months later I visited Berlin for the first time. The East German government still clung to a nominal existence, and there was still a border to cross at the Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn station. The guards went through the motions. I was glad to have seen the last embers, and at another point to have touched the graffiti-covered wall, parts of which still stood. When I returned nearly two decades later, Friedrichstrasse was all glass and steel, the Alexanderplatz was no longer quite so bleak a declaration of Soviet aesthetics, and the Cold War had become un lieu de mémoire. It's hard to convey to my children what it was all about.

4 comments:

meshplate said...

Nice testimonies, but don't you think Libé could have found a couple of former East and West Berliners to interview, or members of reunited families and the like? It's a bit parochial to only get a French perspective -- a bit like getting only a French point of view on D-Day. Mind you, I do realize the press have more limited budgets for stories these days. Still, couldn't they pick up a phone and call Germany? Am I missing something?

Steven Rendall said...

You might be interested in the current issue of the web magazine "Words Without Borders," which presents a variety of German views on this subject: http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/
Words Without Borders has also just brought out an anthology of writing about the Berlin Wall (for which I was one of the translators): http://thewallinmyhead.com/

Unknown said...

Thanks, Steve.

slg said...

And for humor, watch Angela Merkel channel one kind of German soul: go to the sauna like every Thursday, visit West Berlin for a few minutes before going home, then stay home all weekend to work on the paper for a conference in Poland...

http://www.lemonde.fr/archives/article/2009/11/06/la-nuit-historique-ou-la-jeune-allemande-de-l-est-angela-merkel-regardait-la-television_1263660_0.html