Monday, November 9, 2009

The Wall Is Gone

Magnet # 88: Flag of Germany

Material: Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By: Dad

By now, you may have heard that this is the day when the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is being celebrated in Germany. A "Festival of Freedom" is going on today in Belin. One of the highlights is the toppling of over 1,000 dominoes each over eight feet tall along the route where the wall one stood. Legendary rock group U2 kicked off the festivites on Thursday with a limited concert before the Brandenberg Wall. Although it was free, tickets 10,000 tickets offered online in less than three hours. In a controvesial move, the concert organizers, which included MTV, erected a metal barries so that those not holding tickets would be able to hear, but could not see the Irish rockers. Some were outraged that a concert being held to celebrate the fall of a wall would, in effect, build a wall to keep people out, but the concert went on nontheless. Even though MTV may have done this to force people to view its airing of the concert, U2's actions were driven by less cynical motives. They stayed in Berlin after the wall's demise, and being there helped inspire parts of one of their most successful albums to date, Achtung Baby.

The only country I've ever lived in besides the United States is Germany. I was pretty young during that time in the early eighties, when the wall still stood. It didn't play much of a role in my life, but my parents were friends with a nice couple of native Germans we visited some in our time there. The man had a mother who still lived in East Germany, and he was only able to see her rarely. He wanted her to move to West Germany, and because she was elderly, she would have been able to make that choice for herself, as East Germany wanted its older citizens to leave so it would not have to provide for them in matters such as health care. But her house and so many people she knew were there, so she stayed as long as she could, only leaving East Germany when she was truly no longer able to take care of herself. I think I remember hearing my parents talk about this when I was very young and living there. I know, it's not as amazing as tales of those who managed to escape or as heartbreaking as those who failed, but it's the closest I ever came to having contact with someone living in East Germany. I never visited the wall, but my parents saw it both when it stood in its entirety, and what remained of it after the fall. Now, the remaining East sides of the wall are covered with graffiti as the West sides were long before 1989. Much of the wall has been demolised, and fragments of it are popular mementos of that time, and can be found on eBay, although it's doubtful all of the pieces are legitimate. One of my Dad's colleagues brought him two pieces of the Berlin Wall, and he gave one to me. He still has his, but I have no idea where mine is. Maybe I should have stuck a magnet on the back.

After almost thirty years of division, Germany has now been whole for two decades. Families are no longer separated by the wall, and citizens are free to move as they please. It's believed that around five thousand people successfully escaped Communist East Germany when the wall stood, while as many as two hundred may have perished in their attempts. Oddly enough, around ten percent of the German population still wishes they were separated. But the rest of the country is joyful for their unified country. Hopefully, the story of the wall will persist through all times, reminding people how a totalitarian regime can tear apart its people and divide families, and hopefully prevent future walls from ever being constructed.

No comments:

Post a Comment