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Thread: 20th Anniversary of 09.11. (the Fall of the Berlin Wall)

  1. #1
    Peachy

    Default 20th Anniversary of 09.11. (the Fall of the Berlin Wall)

    Most of you younger people won't remember that day because they weren't born, and even my memories aren't all that clear because I was really too young to care.

    Still, today marks the 20th annversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain, or more precisely: The patrolled border in between the two German countries, including the Berlin Wall.

    As you should know from either history class or own experience, the world - especially Europe - was divided between communism and capitalism, or East and West, after WWII. Germany was hit particularly hard, as it was divided into two separate countries (German Democratic Republic [GDR] in the east and Federal Republic of Germany [FRG] in the west), and since August 13, 1961 separated by a wall, that was tightly patrolled by border guards from the east who wouldn't hesitate to shoot anyone trying to get near the border. It was extremely difficult for people from the East to be allowed to see the West. Lots of beaurocracy involved, they needed a reason, they could only go alone so the government could be sure they'd return to the East if their family members would remain in the East (I know, because I had relatives in the East back then).

    The 'West' and the 'East' engaged in the Cold War (armed to their teeth, spies, attempts at deceiving each other, competition in sports and in the run into space), and while both blocks were relatively equal in terms of economic success and standard of living for the respective population in the 50s and 60s, the situation worsened in the communist countries in the 70s and 80s. It became more and more apparent that communism as practiced in those countries does not work. People got increasingly unhappy with the situation, but due to the Iron Curtain couldn't just leave. And any political opposition was impossible due to secret services keeping a close eye on any such people.

    However, while the Soviet Union tried to rework their system (look up "glasnost" and "Perestroika" on Google), the political leaders in Eastern Germany tried to suppress any kind of political opposition by force. In early 1989, the leaders still tried to strike down any demonstrations against the government, but on Oct 9th, 1989 more than 70,000 people held a demonstration in Dresden shouting the famous slogan "We are the People" ("Wir sind das Volk"), and the police force eventually decided to leave them alone. From that day onward, it was absolutely clear that the communist government would be gone soon...but no one knew how soon!

    People kept demonstrating in the weeks thereafter, increasing the pressure on the government to change something. So on November 9th, 1989 the communist government of the GDR (east) decided to relieve some of the pressure by allowing people to go visiting the West without any of the usual restrictions. On the evening of that day, GŁnter Schabowski (who had become Secretary of Information of the Communist Party just 5 days earlier) held a press conference and read out a declaration from the communist government: "Private trips abroad can, from now on, be applied for without any kind of requirements (relatives in the west or any other reason for traveling)". One of the journalists asked "When does that go into effect?", to which Schabowski had no answer, so he stuttered, hesitated, shuffled his papers and said "As far as I know, immediately".

    The rest was history, as they say. People flocked to the border crossings to be allowed to visit the west, and the border patrol people had no choice but to simply open the gates and let people through. Obviously, that was not what the communist government had in mind. They wanted to relieve pressure and work towards a controlled change. Guess it didn't work!
    It took almost another 11 months until the two German states were reunited (Oct 3rd, 1990)...or more precisely: The GDR formally ceased to exist and the terroritory it once comprised joined the Federal Republic.

    And that's how a poorly prepared speech changed history.

    So...after this history lesson: What's your opinion? Do you have any memories of this day (if you're old enough)? Any opinion on the issue at hand?

    Peachy

  2. #2

    Default

    Peachy, awesome info. Thanks for the in depth look. I was born a couple years before it went down, so I was only 2 and don't remember this at all. I knew most of it from history class, but I had no idea what initiated it. I didn't know about a poorly planned speech. That's hilarious, and just goes to show what can happen when a superpower is crumbling.

    As an American, there are two comments here on this post: 1) This is always looked at as a triumphant day over here, of course, so it's considered almost as big a part of our history as it is other nations (although obviously not as big as it is for you guys over there in Germany), and 2) I noticed you used the European style of dating (day.month.year), instead of what we Yanks use here (month/day/year). Sooo, people are likely to suspect that date has something to do with September 11, 2001, and the terrorist attacks here. But, I'm sure you've prepared yourself for a few of those responses (hence, you put the topic of the Berlin Wall parenthetically in the thread title).

    Anyhow, this was quite the tremendous day, and a huge victory throughout the world. In America, we tend to use this moment to signify the 'beginning of the end' for the Soviet Union, even though they had been falling for quite a while before it. I'll be interested to see what other history buffs have to say on this one. Great topic !

  3. #3
    Peachy

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by spddan View Post
    I noticed you used the European style of dating (day.month.year), instead of what we Yanks use here (month/day/year). Sooo, people are likely to suspect that date has something to do with September 11, 2001, and the terrorist attacks here.
    It was intentional. Our 09.11. changed the world and our country as much as your 09/11 changed yours. Except the results were complete opposites - on your 09/11, freedom crumbled to dust with the WTC. On our 09.11., the wall crumbled to dust and gave 100s of million people the freedom they had been searching for for so long.

    Peachy

  4. #4

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by Peachy View Post
    It was intentional. Our 09.11. changed the world and our country as much as your 09/11 changed yours. Except the results were complete opposites - on your 09/11, freedom crumbled to dust with the WTC.
    Ah, I figured as such. Another good point as well. However, I believe that in all honesty, the fall of the Berlin wall had a much greater *long term* effect for your country than 9/11 did for ours. While 9/11 did bring about an immediate change in our nation and our culture and altered the way we, as well as others, thought about us, when the Berlin Wall came down it gave you guys access to the other half of your nation. I have to think that would be a huge deal, and would have a tremendous impact on the German way of life.

    We're a younger nation, so big events can really rock our cultural identity. However, for a nation as old as Germany, it takes a little more, I'd think, to make such a tremendous impact on the society as a whole. I could be wrong; I've never been to your nation, or any other nation in Europe, unfortunately. Hoping this makes sense.

  5. #5

    Default

    "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

    I wasn't around when it happened. And they never taught us about it in school, but it's still an interesting topic and I've done my own research on it.

    It was in the paper a couple of days ago. They had a timeline of the events.

  6. #6

    Default

    Peachy,

    Even though you may not have the best memory of the event, would you be able to recall how things in your life changed due to the wall falling (e.g. What side of the wall were you on? How did life change for you since the wall fell? Etc.)?

    I'm naturally curious about events like this; their impact on people as individuals and how life can change so drastically in such a small amount of time.

    Sadly, I do not have anything too constructive to add to this thread given the time period and my age. It was the beginning of the end for the Cold War and leaves one to wonder what the world would be like if the Wall had stayed up.
    Last edited by Mink; 10-Nov-2009 at 00:00.

  7. #7

    Default

    I remember that night well. I was in the Army and at Fort Stewart at the time. I had already done a 3 year tour in Germany(1984-1987 at Spangdahlem AFB) and never expected the wall to come down in my lifetime. I was very happy to see it happen though. I had a chance to go to the border during a deployment exercise called Reforger a few months after I finished my 3 year tour of duty in Germany. To put it mildly it was a very sobering experience to say the least. It was in the old British sector in Northern Germany. I had just been to Bergen Belsen concentration camp before going to the border. That was even a very moving experience too. I returned to Germany in 1993 and was at Crailseim for 5 months and was transferred to Bamberg. I then had a chance to go to the former DDR Deutsch Democratic Republic(East Germany). I was very active in an German/American organization called Kontact. It was sponsored by the US Army too. I had a chance to go to our Kontact Club's sister Jena in the old DDR. I did not know what to expect when we went there but our friends there all but rolled out the red carpet for us. I was not one to sit around in the barracks and not go any where while I was stationed there in Germany. Many of my fellow Army friends did just that and did not get out to enjoy the German culture and people. The bad part is they do not even know what they missed. I hope to someday return to Deutschland(Germany)and visit some old friends.

  8. #8

    Default

    I'm not German myself, though I have a little in me, and I can say that I do remember this. I was in first grade? I'm guessing at the time and it was a pretty big deal even over here, though I'm quite sure it was much more important over there for obvious reasons. I can only imagine the horrors that East German's had to live through. I for sure couldn't live under that kind of government and I don't know how people still do it today. I for one am glad that wall is down and democracy has flourished. My aunt was actually in Germany at the time the wall came down, and she brought home pieces of it and gave me a few. I still have it after all these years, it's the most meaningful "souvenier" that I own.

  9. #9

    Default

    I remember watching this event unfold on the news, as pieces of the wall came down & broken families came back together!! It was great to see & I cheered as Germany was made whole again!! I remember the party like atmosphere when it happened!! People were dancing on top of the wall, waving both the West & East German flags in the air, shouting & smiling, hugging each other!!

    What a great day it was, as it marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War & the fall of communism in Russia (then the U.S.S.R.) !! It's funny, Germany was made whole again, but the U.S.S.R. broke up shortly thereafter!!

  10. #10

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by spddan View Post
    We're a younger nation, so big events can really rock our cultural identity. However, for a nation as old as Germany, it takes a little more, I'd think, to make such a tremendous impact on the society as a whole. I could be wrong; I've never been to your nation, or any other nation in Europe, unfortunately. Hoping this makes sense.
    Technically, the US actually has about a century on Germany as a modern nation state seeing as it wasn't unified until 1871, and even then it covered a very different territory to what we would recognise now. Before that there were a hodgepodge of independent states - with Prussia the most powerful - in the area and before that the Holy Roman Empire, which did include a Kingdom of Germany, but was very different to modern Germany. This isn't terribly relevant but I don't often get to use my History A Level in conversation so you'll have to forgive me.

    On the actual topic: I would have been two at the time so obviously have no memories of it. It's certainly one of the defining moments of the twentieth century though, and it's hard for me to really recognise just how recently it was that Europe was completely different from the one I've always known. It marked the dawning of a new era, I suppose - an age of security and democracy but also the death of the grand ideologies. It's a state that those of my generation rather take for granted.

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