Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wall and Ostalgia

Today was the anniversary of the Berlin Wall. The Wall had been built fifty years ago, basically overnight, and the anniversary was a huge event — actually, it still is, there is stuff going on all over town, and I will leave for a movie in Mauerpark any time soon. In the morning, Angela Merkel and Christian Wulff, the President of Germany showed up, together with Klaus Wowereit, the Mayor of Berlin, to dedicate the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Street. I missed all the speeches, but the memorial is very touching. It includes a window with transparent, black-and-white pictures of some of the victims. If you want to know more, as always, check out The Berlin Wall Today

In the meantime, everybody is quibbling about whose fault the Wall was; actually, a moot point. The Wall was build because the Allies had a fallout after 1945, and both sides wanted to protect their loot. But even among Berliners there seems to be some nostalgia, or, as it is called, Ostalgia for the Wall; albeit not the real Wall. From what I‘m gathering, people want the job protection and rent regulations of the East, and the currency, the flat-screen TVs, and the vacation opportunities of the West.

Also, the left-wing party Die Linke, the successors of the SED, misses the Wall; they boycotted a minute of silence today for the victims. On second thought, the Wall kept those people out, so maybe Wall-nostalgia has a point. Some Berliners even compare the Berlin Wall with the wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but I am fairly sure you could not climb the Berlin Wall with a 51-foot-ladder.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who Built The Wall?

The anniversary of the Berlin Wall comes closer, and the city is buzzing. On Saturday, there'll be a ceremony at Bernauer Street in Mitte; the Wall Memorial has been enlarged. The Wall used to cut the street in an eastern and a western part; people died trying to cross Bernauer Street. Now a row of steel rods are depicting where the Wall has been, as well as a "window for the victims".

Due to the anniversary people are also debating who put up the Wall in the first place. An American author, Hope Harrison, has a new book out claiming that Germans built the Wall, i.e. Walter Ulbricht, who was running Eastern Germany at that time, and not the Russians, who were occupying the Eastern part of Germany (and Europa)  since World War II. Historians usually blame Nikita Chruschtschow, the Soviet General Secretary, who also sealed the border between Western and Eastern Europe.

While Harrison might be technically true, Ulbricht was a puppet dictator put in place by the occupying Soviets to begin with, so accusing Germans is a bit sneaky. Generally speaking, all four Allies didn't have a problem with the Wall—Margaret Thatcher wanted it to stay in place after 1989. And Kennedy's adviser William Fulbright came up with the idea to build a wall in 1961 to quell the unrest in Central Europe, although, at that point, it was already in the works

Speaking of new books, not only is "The Berlin Wall Today" out; it is now available at Barnes and Noble, and there is also a German version (a French one will follow). Check it out!


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