25 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Berlin, you’re my BFF!

The Berlin Wall after the opening of the Wall near Brandeburger Gate on November 11th, 1989!  Photo@ 25 Archiv Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung - Uwe Gerig. (www.berlin.de/2013)
The Berlin Wall after the opening of the Wall near Brandeburger Gate on November 11th, 1989!
Photo@ 25 Archiv Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung – Uwe Gerig. (www.berlin.de/2013)

You know how I love this glorious city right.

You know.

This city called Berlin.

I mean, I shout about it loud enough and it was just under a year ago that I introduced myself to you on this blog, when I wondered what the heck Berlin was all about anyway!

I mean, what’s the big deal?

I’ll tell you what the big deal is my good man.

It’s the fact that the city of Berlin. THIS city of Berlin, has been together in peace and harmony for 25 years.

That’s right.

25 years!

A few days ago was October 3rd.

October 3rd is the public holiday given to the German people to honour the Re-Unification of the two German States previously called the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or DDR (Deutsche Democratic Republic) otherwise known as East Germany, and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) or Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD) otherwise also known as West Germany.

You are leaving the American Sector! Photo credit: © Owen Franken/Corbis
You are leaving the American Sector!
Photo credit: © Owen Franken/Corbis

WHY WAS THE BERLIN WALL SET UP IN THE FIRST PLACE?

It’s a little complicated but after WWII, Germany was split up and divided by the allies as punishment, and you only had to look at the city of Berlin to see who the Allies were namely: Great Britain, France, USSR and the United States.

It was not long before arguments and squabbling took place in the international political arena and simply put, the Eastern and Western Bloc decided to go their separate ways and an Iron Curtain ensued.

East Germany took it further and built a wall in Berlin, cutting a line through the entire centre of the city. This wall was supposed to prevent East Berliners and citizens of East Germany from fleeing to the West, but the Wall was unable to stop the mass of people from fleeing. As a result, in 1961, the ruling Communist Party in East Germany began adding more border fortifications to the Wall, creating a broad, many-layered system of barriers.

In the West, people referred to the border strip as the “death strip” because so many people were killed while trying to flee. I have seen this death wall myself as I live in East Berlin and not 10 minutes away, is the main local park called “Mauer Park.” The suburb of Prenzlauerberg where I live, is enormously trendy and gentrified, and if you’re “in,” or want to be “in,” you strive to live here.

However, let it be noted that “Mauer” in German, means “Wall.”

With the downfall of East Germany in 1989, the Berlin Wall that the Socialist Party tried to use to maintain its power, also fell. The fall of the Wall marked the definitive end of its dictatorship.

The Berlin Wall enclosed West Berlin from August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989,

The Berlin Wall.
The Berlin Wall.

STREETS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE WALL?

In May, I went on a brilliant walking tour with an organisation called the Real Berlin Experience Walking Tour in one of my favourite places, and where I first lived in Berlin – Kreuzberg. You can read all about it right here! In my post, I mentioned that Kreuzberg had the Berlin Wall running right through the middle of it and that during the happy confusion when the Wall actually fell, young people were leaving the East to go West, or leaving the West to go East.

In Prenzlauerberg where I live now, the same thing occurred. There is a street called Bernauer Strasse on which the Berlin Wall also lay. In fact, it was pretty horrid for all concerned, as you could actually see the other side of the Wall from your kitchen window but you couldn’t go to the Western side without being shot!

Smashing through the wall! Photo@ frizztext
Smashing through the wall!
Photo@ frizztext

Imagine the frustration, pain, and horror.

Many people tried to escape to freedom and found ways to be creative by sailing across in a hot air balloon, digging tunnels underground, pretending to have a funeral and lowering the “dead” person into a pit, hiding inside the seated lining of a Volkswagen car, etc. All for a life of freedom.

It’s easy to forget that this situation was only 25 years ago. Most of you reading this blog, are probably older!

SO HOW DID THE BERLIN WALL ACTUALLY FALL?

Read on…..!


2 May

Hungary begins dismantling the fortifications on the border to Austria.

People demonstrate against the election rigging in front of the Sophienkirche (church).


7 May

Local elections in the GDR. Opposition groups prove that the results were faked. People demonstrate against the election rigging in East Berlin on the seventh day of every subsequent month.


4 September

First Monday Demonstration in Leipzig. 1,200 people gather outside St. Nicholas’ Church. Their demands include freedom of travel and democracy.


9 /10 September

New Forum’s initial call-out becomes a signal for change. Further grassroots movements follow.


11 September

Hungary officially opens its western border for GDR citizens, risking a breach in its diplomatic relations with East Berlin.


30 September

West Germany’s foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher informs the East German refugees in the Prague embassy, that they will be allowed to leave the GDR.


3 October

The GDR government bans travel to Czechoslovakia without passports and visas, to stem the mass exodus. Special trains transport people from the Prague and Warsaw embassies to the West, through the GDR. There are violent clashes with police along the railway line, as well as in Dresden.


7. October

On the 40th anniversary of the GDR, several thousand people demonstrate in Berlin outside the Palace of the Republic.  In numerous East German towns and cities, similar protests are broken up by force.


East End Gallery: A Part of the Berlin Wall.
East End Gallery: A Part of the Berlin Wall.

9 October

Despite fear of military repression of the Monday Demonstration, 70,000 people take to the streets in Leipzig. The police, military and civilian forces do not intervene.


11 October

The single ruling political party calls for people to stay in the GDR, offering a “dialogue” concerning the country’s further development.


16 October

The number of people at the Monday Demonstration in Leipzig doubles. The security forces do not intervene.


18 October

Erich Honecker is forced to resign after 18 years in office. Egon Krenz is made the new secretary-general of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).


24 October

Krenz is also elected chairman of the State Council and the National Defence Council. 12,000 people demonstrate against his appointment in Berlin that evening.


30 October

300,000 people take part in the Leipzig Monday Demonstration.


4 November

The largest demonstration in the history of the GDR takes place in Berlin.


7 November

The government of the GDR, and the Council of Ministers collectively resign.


8 November

The Central Committee Politburo, the highest body in the GDR, resigns. West German chancellor Helmut Kohl links economic and financial aid for the GDR to three conditions: the opposition must be legalised, free elections must take place, and the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) must renounce its claim to sole authority.


9 November

The Wall falls, prompted by a vague, but now famous, announcement of new travel regulations at a press conference. Tens of thousands of East Berliners rush to the checkpoints and force the border open.


22 December

The Berlin Wall is officially opened at Brandenburg Gate. The first concrete section is removed from its beams at 0.30 a.m.


23 December

The offices issuing passes for the GDR in West Berlin close for good. West Germans no longer need a visa, or have to change a certain amount of money, to enter the East.


1990 Chronology


31 August

The Unification Treaty is signed in East Berlin.


3 October

Germany celebrates the “Day of German Unity” also known as “Re-Unification Day.”


Climbing up the Berlin Wall. Freedom! Freedom!!
Climbing up the Berlin Wall.
Freedom! Freedom!!

25 YEARS AFTER THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL

It was the people who took to the streets en masse and courageously resisted a dictatorship, enabling both the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Peaceful Revolution. The 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall is again going to mobilise as many as people as possible.

Berlin is inviting Berliners, eyewitnesses who were here, and people of the world, to actively participate in the anniversary celebrations as balloon patrons, and to tell your personal stories about the Berlin Wall.

Two sides and periods, of the Berlin Wall.
Two sides and periods, of the Berlin Wall.

You, and I, are invited to be involved in looking back at the events of 1989, and reflecting on the connection to the present.

The stories, memories, and wishes expressed by balloon patrons for a peaceful world without walls, are going to be seen and collected at www.fallofthewall.com. The result will be a unique online gallery that commemorates and reflects on the Berlin Wall from today’s perspective. If you want to be a part of this unique moment, then please go to the website here.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE or Light Installations at Engelbecken  © Kulturprojekte Berlin WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder, Photo@ Daniel Büche (www.berlin.de/2013)
Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE or Light Installations at Engelbecken
© Kulturprojekte Berlin WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder, Photo@ Daniel Büche
(www.berlin.de/2013)

From the 7th to the 9th of November 2014, Berlin will once again be (temporarily) divided from Bornholmer Strasse to Mauerpark, and the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse to the Reichstag, past the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie to the East Side Gallery. 8,000 luminous, white balloons will mark the former course of the Wall. For more info about this: go here.

The highlight of the 25th year anniversary is a spectacular community event that will send all the balloons soaring into the sky. At the Brandenburg Gate, the Staatskapelle Berlin will play a live broadcast of the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with “Ode an die Freude” under the baton of Daniel Barenboim. For more info about this: go here.

Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE at Brandenburg Gate  © Kulturprojekte Berlin_WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder. Photo@ Daniel Büche (www.berlin.de/2013).
Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE at Brandenburg Gate
© Kulturprojekte Berlin_WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder. Photo@ Daniel Büche
(www.berlin.de/2013).

WHAT IF THE BERLIN WALL ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

As if!!

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

Me relaxing at the Berlin Music Video Awards, 2014.
Me relaxing at the Berlin Music Video Awards, 2014.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions and the currywurst and bratwurst that I’m sure to be happily scoffing in the next few weeks, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.

As I told you last week, my huge surprise for you is that next week, I will be going to France! I can’t believe it. On my first (1st) ever press trip! My next post will be about Northern France. Yipee!

In October, I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:

Skylight on: 30.10.14.

Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.

Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.

I’ll be participating in An Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour on 18.10.14. ‘So exciting. Yum!

DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

In October & November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.

October is going to be amazing.

Watch this space!
19-year-old guard Conrad Schumann on August 15, 1961 jumping over the barbed wire in his uniform while toting his machine gun. Photo@ artwork images - Klaus Lehnartz.
19-year-old guard Conrad Schumann on August 15, 1961 jumping over the barbed wire in his uniform while toting his machine gun.
Photo@ artwork images – Klaus Lehnartz.

Have you been to Berlin? Where were you in 1989?

See you in Berlin.

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73 thoughts on “25 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Berlin, you’re my BFF!

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