16 People From Around The World Share What It Was Like When The Berlin Wall Fell.
Germans who are 35+ years old were asked on Reddit: "How did you experience the fall of the Berlin wall?" These are some of the best answers.
1/16 My oldest son was in the U.S. Military in Germany just before the wall came down. According to his fellow soldiers, my son was involved in helping East Germans escape into the West. A bomb went off in his car while he was driving it...Very tragic but I am proud of what he chose to do.
2/16 I didn't really live very close the border, but even so the effects of the fall were immense. I worked as a chemical assistant in a Factory with around 2000 employees. A day after the wall fell the street towards an open road towards the west had been crowded, while the other side of it didn't have much traffic. It's quite the sight seeing so many "Trabbis" (Thats what we called the trabants, only car available, you had to wait for years to get one) on the road.
Over the next few days you would hear from all over my workplace how people just suddenly vanished. Even though you usually don't quit without notice here, people would just be gone. Since I lived in a village word got out relatively quick and you would know who went to the west. After a short while half of the employees in the factory were gone.
I went to the west with my wife a few months later and began to study in a college equivalent. I couldn't really do that in east Germany without joining the SED party. While they didn't make your life worse for not joining, you could not get much benefits as a non member either. These twisted stories would be able to fill many threads, but I will keep it at that one comment.
3/16 Shaking in front of the telly. I remember my dad coming home from work before the usual time, completely messed up stammering: "The border is open!" No one could actually believe it until we were crammed into the car and stuck in line at the border crossing for hours...
4/16 Not a German, but I spent half my life in West Germany. I was there when the wall was built and when it came down. The best analogy is to imagine your sister has been married to an abusive asshole for forty years and finally escapes his iron grip. It's a hell of a party and the celebration goes on for days, but when she moves in with her five kids, the party is over.
An unexpected effect for me was the complete elimination of any doubts I ever had about racism. Just about every racist slur, joke or stereotype I had heard about blacks, Jews, Latinos, whatever, I heard applied to East Germans by West Germans. The only thing that separated them was 40 years and yet there was hate. It was hard to comprehend.
It actually started before the wall went down when an East German girl showed up at our hang out. She was a nurse that had joined the massive wave that left when Hungary opened it's border to Austria. She was stunningly beautiful and when our eyes locked the first time we saw each other, we both knew it was going to be a good night, maybe more. We spent time dancing and while we were chatting she made a jibe about Jews. I gave her a funny look, decide it was just one joke and let it go. But later, when we were slow dancing, she made one of the ugliest slurs about Jews I have ever heard. I told her I can't take this, lebewohl, and walked off the floor. Lebewohl is a final form of good bye used when you don't plan on seeing someone again. My friends came over and asked me what the hell I did to her because she was crying. I told them she was a total racist and I wasn't going to waste any time on her. They're response was 'Yeah, she's East German.' I didn't give a damn, that's no excuse.
To make a short story long, they finally convinced me to talk to her again and she spent hours explaining the way she was raised in East Germany and how racism was encouraged and part of the fabric of their society. She had no idea why it could be wrong, but she wanted to learn. She learned, I learned and we were both better for it. It helped me understand and come to terms with members of my own distant family that are racist.
5/16 I was 12 years old at the time, living in West Berlin, so I learned about it the next day in school. That evening, me and 2 friends from school went to one of the border crossings (Invalidenstrasse), cheering along with thousands of other people and knocking on the Trabbis as they came streaming in from the crossing to greet them. Later we went to the Brandenburg Gate, climbed up on the wall, chanting along with the crowd, and hacking a bit on the wall.
6/16 At home in the West, glued to the TV. We watched the fateful press conference with Gunther Schabowski, who fumbled with his written press statement (prewritten for him, not by him) and struggled to make sense of it. He announced that all East German Citizens would be allowed full travel privileges. This was true as far as this was in the press statement, but they actually wanted to slowly implement this after a few weeks - probably hoping desperately that they could later stall and go back. Now, these press statements, like everything official in the GDR, were written in a particularly incomprehensible socialist-party-speak and even Schabowski was out of his depth. So next, a reporter asked when this would be implemented. Schabowski leafed back and forth, stuttered, and then said "Immediately... as far as I can see here this is in force immediately."
Well, that was it really. Now, the past weeks had seen an increase in demonstrations and an increasingly nervous East German Government. A few minutes (hours?) after the press conference, we saw the crowds standing directly behind the barriers, chanting "Open up! Open up!" while the border patrol stood around, visibly outnumbered and unable to cope - they had no orders for this and hadn't heard of the press conference obviously. As it turned out later, they were warning their superiors back in the government that the situation was volatile. The government was equally unable to cope as it turned out, and just helplessly told them to sit tight. The crowd grew increasingly restive. As a means to relieve pressure, someone at the Stasi had decided that people could lave the GDR towards West-Berlin, but had to have a stamp in their Passport. What nobody was told was that later, reentry for those people was to be refused.
However, this stupid bureaucratic process leaving out a single person at a time was not enough, the crowds grew and even exerted physical pressure on the barriers. At long last an officer of the border forces decided, alone and in contradiction to his orders, to just open the damn thing - the border guards later claimed that they were fearing for their lives. An incredible cheering and shouting arose and the crowd broke free, dashing across the bridge with complete abandon.
At home, my family and I had briefly toyed with the idea of driving to the border, but then we heard about 50km traffic jams on the way and decided not to. Looking back, it is a bit sad that we weren't closer to the events. Anyway, at that moment the barrier opened? We all knew full well that the GDR and all the horror it embodied had just gone out with a squeak (their government) and huge cheering (by the people). In the weeks and months that followed, the faltering East German Government, some West German politicians (notably Oscar Lafontaine) as well as Thatcher tried to somehow prevent a reunification, all for their own stupid little reasons. It's just as well that in the end everybody agreed, because we'd have done it anyway. They might as well have tried to keep the sun from shining.
7/16 I was 10 years at old at the time. I lived in a small town in Bavaria. I don't really remember much other than watching the event on TV and my dad explaining it to me. The thing I remember most was a few new kids moving to town and enrolling in our school. One of the kids was name Florian and joined our soccer team. Our first game he scored five goals, and I thought to myself "I'm so glad the wall came down and he moved to our town." What can I say? I was 10.
8/16 I received a phone call from a close friend in the Catalonian television, TV3. "Miguel, you have to come to our HQ, we need you for urgent translation. Something big is going on." I took a cab and 15 minutes later I was in the studios. Everybody was like freaking out, they were running like hens around. My friend came running to my encounter and rushed me through corridors to the central studio. "But what is going on, Tony?", I asked him on the run. "The wall will fall in ... it is falling!", he shouted to me. "You will have to translate the German feed into Catalan."
Wtf... the wall... what wall? I thought about a huge natural disaster, but couldn't remember any wall that would arise such attention. Maybe in the Alps? Before I could ask again, I was sitting on an edge of a table, got the headset put on, the technician asked me to talk so to adjust it, gave me an OK... and then I had a chance to look at the screens. I saw a huge crowd in all of them. I still was unable to recognize anything. "Here comes the feed", cried my friend and my ears got filled with the voice of an hysterical German commenting in loud voice. "Go, start translating. We are in the air in ... 3, 2... go, go!"
And I just started. German to Catalan is not easy, and in the bewildered state I was, receiving the German input in really bad conditions made my even more insecure. My words didn't seem to make any sense, but I kept on with the simultaneous translation commiting one mistake after the other, sweating and at the same time feeling cold. Then it struck me. It was the wall, THE WALL. It was not falling, but hundreds of people from both Germanies were sitting or standing on it, smashing it, shouting, greeting, embracing each others...
I stopped translating. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It seemed so completely faked or unreal... I mean The Wall was so much WALL... it just would never disappear. My mind went in all kind of colours and my mouth wide open. One of the guys in the studio understood what was happening to me, while nearly all the others were trying to force me to keep on with the translation. He took a microphone and asked me what I was feeling. So I started to express that, whatever "that" it was. I don't remember any of my words, which were delivered to hundreds of thousands of Catalonian homes.
I still can't believe it. You know... that I know, that we all know... but most of you haven't lived with THE WALL, its unbreakable presence, its evil and disgusting symbol of hate. It was meant to be something eternal, and a terrible result and sign of a war our fathers had loaded on our shoulders. A permanent reminder of guilt, a three dimensional tattoo we all Germans were meant to carry and expose at all our movements, words or thoughts, actions taken or not. And then, all of a sudden, it was gone. Maybe liberty doesn't really exist. Only the path to it, filled with all kinds of restrictions and limits. But I know that we will always find a way to break those walls, may it take us one or ten thousand years to do so. And it is not our generation that really advances from such changes. We have got that wall still inside us. The reminder stays in place.
But our sons and daughters... they don't. The wall wouldn't catch them, too.
9/16 Well, I was 10 at the time, so all first-hand experiences come from a child's perspective. I actually grew up in this 5km zone close the German-German border (outsiders need a permit to enter this zone, even people who wanted to visit their relatives). That also means that I saw the border -- which was usually two lines of fences in rural areas -- on a more or less daily basis. But when you were born and raised in this awareness, it just seems normal: Well, looks the same over there, I just cannot go there.
Politics were never really a topic at home, at least not in front of me. Since both my parents were normal blue-collar workers, none of them was in the SED (ruling party of the GDR), which was mandatory for any kind of higher ranking job and even when you wanted to study.
Still, even as a kid it was very easy to sense that something was going on. While not many had a telephone, a TV as reasonable common. And most East German could actually receive West German station, which were definitely the better source of information (and the only time I was looking forward to watch ads for toys and sweets I never could get in real life). But of course I had not full sense of the possible consequences, both good and bad. But the general excitement was certainly tangible.
One of the most ingrained memories was our first visit to West Germany, including a larger town. For a little rascal from a very small East German village like me, this was wonderland. The lights, the smell, and all the stuff I only knew from TV. After the Fall of the Wall and particularly after the Reunification, living close the the former German-German border was kind of a blessing. Easy access to already "developed" areas, and many East German found a job on the other side.
As for me, I switched to secondary school in West Germany. Since then it only went uphill. I still remember the times when they were still searching for land mines between the two rows of fences. This and all the things I learned when getting older made really acknowledge and appreciate what was going on.
10/16 I was not in Berlin at the time. But our whole family was excited and we followed the news on the radio an TV. My mother was born in the DDR (GDR) and after she was was imprisoned for trying to escape in 1972 she was deported to West Germany after one year at Hoheneck prison. My grandmother was allowed to follow her 2 years later when she retired. The first time my mother was allowed back in the GDR to visit old friends was in 1985 and I was allowed to accompany her. I was 8 at the time. One of the first memories is of arriving at the border. I offered the border guard a cookie and he stared at me with a mixture of confusion and anger.
So there was a lot of emotions and tears of happiness in our family when finally the Berlin Wall came down. We connected with our friends and tried to help them with some things. It was the feeling that something fundamental had changed.
11/16 It was quite far away, I live in Munich. The GDR was some strange socialist country to me. Then the wall fell and there were many reports about it on TV and the Hoff was there and the Scorpions, too.
And I, even though still young thought: boy, they were always like 20 years behind, I hope it will not be Germanys problem to bring them up to speed. But that hope was for naught and we still pay Solidarittszuschlag, even that help-them-to-rebuild-tax was supposed to be only for one year. But my best friend is from the Neue Bundeslnder, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.
12/16 I'm a west german guy (not even Berlin). The fall of the Berlin Wall happened to be on my 10th birthday back then. I don't remember that much, but what I remember is that after a somewhat special birthday (getting your age transformed into two digit), I was ready for bed, playing with my presents.
My mother hurried up to my room and told me "The wall is down." with tears is her eyes. I remember sitting in front of the TV watching what's going on in Berlin and thinking about my Relatives that lived in Thuringia, that we only got to visit like three times throughout my whole live up to then and how I could barely understand why they never were able to visit us.
13/16 I was backpacking around Europe in the fall of '90. As soon as I heard of the date of reunification, I made a bee-line from Oktoberfest in Munich for Berlin. My rail pass was no good for East Germany, so I and a friend made quick relations with a cabin of students on an east-bound train out of Hanover. At the border, we hid underneath the facing seats, that collapsed into a bed. We capped off the door-facing floor spot with our packs, and made it through the checkpoint.
The train was delayed, but we arrived into the Hauptbahnhoff at 15 minutes before midnight. We ran like hell with our packs on our backs to the Reichstag, and were there, among the masses, for Reunification, 12:00am, October 3, 1990, a date I will always remember. Upon the acres of rose petals, we stood side-by-side the weeping masses. We were among hundreds of thousands of people, seeing Chancellor Kohl in the distance, celebrating the end of a very bad era in the west; this WAS the moment the Cold War was OVER.
Before I arrived, I was thinking it was going to be a big party or something. How nave. It was a silent, somber throng of people. Yeah, there was a guy taking off his clothes and dancing naked on a raised area near the stage, but that was not representative of the atmosphere at all. It was solemn. The German people were reuniting families that had been separated for decades. They were reestablishing themselves as ONE country, ONE people, and no longer instruments of some other power's agenda. The next day, I was straddling the top of the wall, tearing that bastard down as best I could. My fingers blistered as I did my best to remove that blight from the earth.
I am so glad to have shared that experience with the German people. It was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life.
14/16 I remember how strange it was to watch the news, more specifically the weather forecast, before it looked like a slice of bread someone took a bite out with a small crumb left in the corner (west berlin) and then the change to the new map we all know today...
15/16 I was 12 at the time and remember sitting in front of the telly, the people breaking down the Wall and the joyous citizens of East Berlin celebrating with their neighbours from West Berlin, the mounting pressure-cooker atmosphere of the last months during which it wasn't sure if the regime(s) wouldn't lash out violently in one last desperate blow finally being released in a de facto capitulation before the ever bolder forces of freedom. The historic moment even unlocking slight shows of emotion from the usually so robotic news anchorman.
That's when my mother said: "God no! Now Aunt Thekla [from Dresden] will visit us."
16/16 I am from Leipzig, the city where it all started. I was doing intensive sports training at the time, and due to the Monday demonstrations I could not take the tram as usual, my parents had to drive me in our trabbi. My dad was at this para-military thing called "Kampfgruppen", and we were always scared that one day he would be called out on the streets to shoot people. On the day the border opened, I was somewhere in the Czech Republic in a training camp in the mountains, washing dishes with a buddy. We had the radio on, and the news speaker announced that the wall was open. We knew it was a big deal, but not quite how big of a deal it was. As we were washing the dishes, we looked at each other, and then realized that there was a picture of Erich Honnecker smiling down at us from the wall. We turned the picture around, so Honni had to face the wall. That was it, we continued washing the dishes. I knew things were big when I came back home on the weekend after, and my parents where like: "Alright, great you are back, don't get too comfy, we are off to Hannover". So the 4 of us went in the Trabbi to Hannover. Fun fact: A trabbi's heater only works when you drive, so my dad had to bring this weird little oven thing that you set on fire and put in the car to keep you warm during the hours and hours of traffic jam going to the West.
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