Friday, April 15, 2005

The Berlin Wall

Unlike my mother (who majored in it at Smith College), history is not my forte. I have to be spoon-fed it or stand in it to get it. But once I get it, I'm nearly overwhelmed by it, especially if it's history of magnitude, like the Berlin Wall.

The photo on the left above is a part of the original Wall that is cordoned off from the public so as not to sustain further damage. The photo on the right is part of a the "East-Side Gallery" (near the Oberbaumbrücke bridge, one of the 5 border-crossing points) that is 1.3 km long--the longest stretch of the Wall still standing in one piece. In 1989-90, after the border was opened, it was painted by 106 artists from around the world and later restored in 2000. While the above link gives you snipets of all the paintings, here are my own photos, along with the bridge, that give more detail on some of them.

You can read up on your own all the details of the Wall, but my biggest surprise of everything I saw/read was this: the Berlin Wall ran not only through the city but completely around West Berlin, the free side. In other words, while the East Berliners were the ones not allowed to enter West Berlin, it was West Berlin that was walled in! Because Berlin was in East Germany, under Soviet control, a trip from free West Berlin to free West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany) passed through non-free East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) and required official crossing of borders on the way out and the way back in. Talk about complicated!

CONNECTIONS:

  • I was in high school when the Wall was built in 1961. The Wall was not part of WWII per se (when I was born) but was a by-product of the Cold War between the Soviet allies and the US allies after the war, when I was entering adulthood (i.e. not very long ago!).
  • The Wall came-a-tumblin'-down in 1989 and the two sides of Berlin were unified in 1990, the year my divorce took place--the year my two "sides," living in a straight marriage as a gay woman, were brought together into a unified me.
  • Often there is a "bridge" nearby that is ready for us to cross when we need to go from here to there. That's what the Oberbaumbrücke (brücke = bridge) will always represent for me from now on.
  • After the fall of the Wall, the German Democratic Republic (DDR), along with the collapse of the Soviet Union, ceased to exist. I had collected worldwide stamps most of my early adult life and had an extensive collection of DDR stamps through a friend. In 1990, the last year DDR stamps were made, Pope John Paul II was honored on a stamp because of his contribution to the end of the Cold War. The very Pope who just died!

"Many small people who in many small places do many small things
can altar the face of the war."

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