Wry Exchange

Berlin Many Years ago
03-22-08, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: , ,

 Growing up in the 70’s, I was fascinated with the Berlin Wall.  I remember reading my grandparents Reader’s Digest magazines about daring escapes and divided families.   I learned about the Cold War and Stasi in school. I heard David Bowie and other musicians and artist kept apartments in West Berlin for ‘inspiration.’  I thought it was so brave of people to live in the ‘West’ in the middle of communist territory.  How weird for one city to be divided into quadrants with control by USSR, Britain, France, and the US.   Visiting Berlin was one of my childhood dreams.

The Berlin Wall fell in 1989.  I visited Berlin in 1991.  I was lucky enough to go with a former exchange student of mine.  It was wonderful, and it was horrible.  We took a train from old West Germany into the Eastern part.  I could tell when we crossed where the border used to be-the tracks went from smooth and modern to old and rickety.  The farms looked run-down, the towns were drab. 

We arrived in Berlin, and the old Western section of the city was vibrant with many stores, people, and bright colors.  The old Eastern part was like a different world to me.  I saw huge cheap-looking Soviet apartment buildings just like in the movies.  I saw bullets marks from WWII in the stone facades of buildings.  That was a huge ‘Toto, we’re not in Kansas’ moment.   Parts of the Wall were still up, and enterprising Turks were selling small pebble sized pieces as souvenirs along with old Soviet and East German military pins.  I went to Checkpoint Charlie, and a small museum nearby.  The museum was full of stories that I had grown up reading about escapes.

My student and I also toured the Reichstag.  There was an exhibit-the first exhibit in Germany-of WWII.  I wasn’t surprised to learn I knew more about Germany’s history about WWII than him.    At the time, not much was taught in Germany about the Nazis and German citizens behavior.  FES tried to argue with me that the Nazis behavior was not any worse than the way African-Americans were treated in the 60’s.  Our country certainly didn’t treat it’s citizens decently, but um, wow.  We didn’t have the HOLOCAUST.  FES tried arguing that ‘not that many’ people were murdered, the concentration camps were work camps, etc. 

It was an eye-opening, surreal trip.  I haven’t returned, but I don’t think I’d recognize Berlin anymore.  It’s been modernized and cleaned up.   I just wish I was able to go to Hong Kong before the British turnover, but I was fortunate to get to go to Berlin.


1 Comment so far
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I’d love to go to Berlin. My love of sports and history has led to quite a bit of study of the 1936 Summer Olympics.

Comment by nolechica

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