10: 25 years ago, the Berlin wall fell

the wall
This photo was taken in 2006 when I visited Berlin. It was one of the stretches of wall that were still standing.

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a peaceful victory by people that took to the streets  and courageously resisted a dictatorship and started a peaceful revolution.

I was only thirteen when it happened. Too young to really understand the impact of what was happening, especially because my family lived in the far western part of (West) Germany, close to the Dutch border, and we didn’t have any direct connection (no family, no friends) to East Germany. Yes, of course, I knew about the “two Germanys” and I did understand that something “life-changing” was happening, but at the time, I felt more like a spectator than a “part” of this historical event.

Now, I have a lot of friends that grew up and used to live in East Germany and I’ve visited the united Berlin a couple of times since the wall came down. I am so very grateful for having the privilege of having those wonderful people in my life, and for that – admittedly selfish reason – alone, it was worth for the Berlin wall to come down. Every year I am reminded of that.

When I went to Berlin a few years ago, I obviously walked along the brick path that today marks the location of the former Berlin wall. It always reminds me a bit of the Freedom trail in Boston — similar concept — with the tiny difference that in Berlin, there actually was a 3.6m high wall in its place. Even though there were spots where parts of the wall were still standing (see picture above), it’s hard to imagine now that this wall ran through a very huge part of the city.

To honor the special historic anniversary of its fall yesterday, a Berlin light artist and his brother created the Lichtgrenze ( “border of light”) project. 8,000 luminous, white balloons, perched 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) high on poles – matching the height of the wall that divided the city — recreated the Berlin wall along its original path. The artist said that the reason behind the project was that it would trigger understanding of what it meant to have a wall in front of one’s door. This  is something I struggle with to this day. The wall was basically put up over night and some people woke up and couldn’t cross their streets anymore, because there was a wall there. Seems kinda crazy, right?


© fallofthewall25.com


© www.wired.com

Last night on the 25th anniversary eve of East Germany opening its borders to the West, 8,000 citizens lined up to release the balloons which floated into the sky, one by one, carrying personal messages with them, symbolically reenacting the wall’s collapse. I can only imagine what a beautiful, emotional event that must have been.

I know it must be hard to comprehend how this, something like a wall dividing a city, was even possible. When I watch movies about East Germany, I find it hard to believe that that was the reality behind the wall… the spying on people, the censorship on literature and other media. (Here are a few German movies I’d like to recommend, if you are interested in the topic — and you know, would like an easy-to-swallow history lessons as a side benefit: “Goodbye Lenin”, “The Lives of Others“, “Barbara“, and “The Tunnel“. I think the first three are available on Netflix.)

By no means has the reunification been an easy one. To this day, there are still lingering east-west political, economic and social divisions in the city and country. Voting patterns in east Berlin and eastern Germany are different, and there is still an east-west income and wealth gap. 40 years have left their marks and are not easily wiped away. However, the unification of Germany is still one of the most important historic milestones of my country.

“The fall of the Berlin Wall showed us that dreams can come true – and that nothing has to stay the way it is, no matter how high the hurdles might seem to be.”  — Angela Merkel

  1. What a beautiful entry

  2. I just tweeted about this! (And how old I feel now.)

    I remember when it happened and remember that it was a pretty big deal. It’s still amazing to me that people could go to bed one night as one country and wake up the next day and it was two. But Germany has come such a very long way since then, and I’m sure will continue to do so.

  3. <3 Beautiful thoughts on an overwhelming piece of history. <3

  4. oh San, what a moving post.
    I can believe that it is hard to comprehend when being “so far away” in Germany. I was much closer not in Berlin but at the Polish border and saw remains of people fleeing the country through the river (strollers, luggage, shoes). I never really got why we can’t go swimming in the river but I knew if I do I am dead. Still we played on its shores. But not in ’89 too dangerous.
    I also had the urge to write about my memories.

    Have a great day, Tobia

  5. Ich finde es auch immer wieder unglaublich, dass tatsächlich vor dem Fenster mancher Menschen plötzlich eine Mauer stand. Wir waren letztes Jahr nochmal in Berlin und haben uns die eine oder andere Stelle angeschaut. Es übersteigt einfach meine Vorstellungskraft, dass dort mal eine Mauer gestanden haben soll!
    Es war sehr schön, Deinen Post zu lesen:-)
    LG Nina

  6. As I’ve been to the Freedom Trail in Boston a few times before, it’s so wild to think it’s like the Berlin Wall! I’ve learned so much about the wall in schools as a child so it seems like this big incredible place to me. I hope to make it there one day.

  7. I was still in school when I started telling my History Teacher that the Wall one day will come down and that I than will be able to see my family, meet my grandfather for the very first time.
    The day of the “Mauerfall” my former History Teacher called me and said “I can’t believe you were right”.
    I will never forget the day I met my grandfather for the very first time – I had dreamed about it for so long but unfortunately it wasn’t as great as it was in my dreams. I never found a connection with him….. he kept being a stranger to me until he died.
    However, I just love the fact that “we, the people” were able to break that damn wall.

Comments are closed.