As many of you are aware – certainly those in Germany or Europe – that the Fall of the Berlin Wall will be commemorated on 9th November. This year is special because it is the 25th anniversary of that event which ushered in the Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and German Reunification. The event certainly holds a special importance for Germans and Europeans, but my perspective of this all is different because I come from a country with a completely different culture, society and geographic location.
Growing up in Pakistan, I confess to have never really heard about the Berlin Wall. Heck, I didn’t even know Germany was once divided! My knowledge of these and other Cold War events came from Tom Clancy novels. My dad loved reading them and when he thought I was old enough to understand them, he encouraged me to read them too. It was this way that I came to know about East and West Germany, the divided city of Berlin and landmarks like Checkpoint Charlie. But paperbacks and the internet don’t really replace the real thing. When I came to Germany and settled in NRW, I took the opportunity to go to the Haus der Geschichte (House of History) in Bonn. This museum commemorates Germany’s post-war history and is a great place to go and inform yourselves about the modern Germany. It was there that I really grasped how Germany which had been decimated after the end of World War 2 picked up itself and rose again from the ashes. I also saw a piece of the Berlin Wall there and it peaked my interest.
My first time in Berlin was really interesting; I saw the remnants of the Wall, saw Checkpoint Charlie, the Trabant (everyone says Trabi) cars and a whole lot of other things like unending Soviet apartment blocks and previously divided areas now transformed. Today, the Brandenburg Gate can be considered to be the symbol of Germany’s Reunification.
Today’s Germans consider themselves German. The old divide between Ossie (Easterner) and Wessie (Westerner) has dissipated. This is above all evident in the younger Germans born in the reunited Germany who don’t identify at all with East Germany. It is a great accomplishment by Germany that it has managed to bring about such integration. Naturally, a common language and culture helped but the feat is great nonetheless. It can be best seen perhaps in Germany’s President and Chancellor who are both former East Germans. Obviously some things are still different in both parts of the country, but it seems like the barriers will be completely eliminated before long.
Another of Germany’s accomplishments is learning lessons from the past. Just like Germany learned from its history under Nazism, it also learned from the East German regime’s subjugation of the people. This can be reflected in museums such as the Stasi Muesum chronicling the East German secret police’s crimes as well as numerous signs, plaques, artwork and much more commemorating the sacrifices of East Germans under their totalitarian regime and their yearning for freedom. But all this opening up of the East to the West would not have been possible had it not been for musicians like The Hoff*, Scorpions, Lena, Marius Müller-Westernhof, Bruce Springsteen and many more artists and activists.
If you are more interested in how the 25th anniversary is being celebrated in Germany, check out TheLocal Germany’s Fall of the Wall Special.
*I had to somehow drag him into this. He’s too important to forget.