Frhlicher Mauerfalltag!

In my style of German, that’s Happy Fall of the Wall Day!

German allows you to make compound nouns of nearly limitless length that are simply dreadful (and typically bureaucratic), but also short ones like Zeitgeist (and unfortunately blitzkrieg) that are so perfect that other languages use them because they don’t have their own words that work as well.

I spent a month in Germany in October 1980, including about a week in Berlin with a day trip to East Berlin. It was a remarkable place then with the separating wall adding this menacing and very odd dimension to the city. Other ways in which the city was – and was not – separated such as the subways and streetcar system, are too bizarre to explain here. In May 2008 I was back for the first time and the changes I saw were beyond conventional words such as “astounding” or “amazing”.


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Twenty years ago today something miraculous happened that few of my age then, let alone those of my parents’ and older generations’ ages, could imagine: the Berlin Wall and the entire 1400 km heavily fortified border that separated the two parts of Germany fell, and less than a year later German reunification would be real.

But the Berlin of today is a direct result of what happened on 9 November 1989.

(For an excellent account read this article in English from Spiegel-Online. Der Spiegel [The Mirror] is the weekly German newsmagazine akin to Newsweek or Time.)

My mother was German and I think what she always said about the wall was similar to what most other Germans felt. She thought it would eventually come down but not within her lifetime. Well, I’m happy to say that she outlived the wall by 18 years.

The process of healing the wounds of 44 years of postwar separation haven’t been easy for Germany, especially for the former eastern part. But in spite of the at times wrenching change, few Germans would turn the clock back. Young adults born around the time of reunification have no personal memory of anything other than a unified Germany and a unified Europe. Good for them and good for all of the other young Europeans.

And when you look at the pictures from November 1989 all you see is complete joy (mixed with disbelief) that the detested wall had finally been broken.

In my small way as a German-American, I share in the pleasure of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the wall’s demise and honor everyone who had a hand in bringing it down.

THE NEW BERLIN MAIN TRAIN STATION (Straddling the former east-west border)

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2 Responses to Frhlicher Mauerfalltag!

  1. Mary Brisson says:

    Ah, yes, I remember it well. Oh, that was French. But I do remember this with joy, and I remember sharing the joy with you at the kitchen table at 522 W. Mercer, way back then. Great to reflect.

  2. Greg Fischer says:

    Yes, we’ll always have Mercer Street. (Thanks, Humphrey!) Over the summer and fall of ’89 in Seattle I would buy the New York Times every day and read with wonder of the things occurring in eastern Europe completely unthinkable only shortly before. I was in Paris in October of ’89, too – a shame I couldn’t have gotten to Germany. Twenty years ago…how the time does pass.

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