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Your memories of the Berlin Wall

November 5th, 2009
02:56 PM ET

Landmark news events come in two forms. There are the 9/11s which we remember for all the wrong reasons and there are the Berlin Walls which we remember for happier reasons.[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/05/art.berlin.wall.jpg caption="Tell us your memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall."]

The Wall was the focal point of the Cold War which could have ended in disaster but didn't, instead it ended in a street party. The people who celebrated on November 9th 1989 on the rubble of the Wall still struggle to describe that night.

They knew they were witnesses to history but they couldn't fathom the extent of it. Those who weren't there but were watching it on TV from afar had the benefit of expert commentary and probably got their heads round it more quickly. Where were you? What were you thinking?

And what do you think of Berlin today? It's been transformed into a thoroughly modern capital worthy of its reputation as Europe's capital of cool. But has it lost its way and its identity? Former East Germans speak fondly of a devided Berlin with a simpler way of life and a greater sense of community.

Your thoughts on Berlin then and now are our talking points for this week's webcast. Send us comments.

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soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Caro W.

    Hey!

    I am a 15-year-old german girl.

    Well, I had not lived in 1989, but i am sure that it was one of the most important years for Germany!
    I am very grateful that Germans have lived in peace since then!

    I cannot imagine to live in a country which is divided by a big wall!

    Because of being interested in travelling and other cultures, i would be very unhappy and sad if i did not get freedom of movement!

    In my opinion East Germany was like a horrible prison and I hope that nobody will foeget wich consequences a wall can have!

    Caro from Germany
    ( I am very sorry for my English ! But i have learned it for 3 years!)

    November 5, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  2. Del Cohrs

    I was in the US army in late 1961 in Berlin when the wall was erected, I saw in the faces of the east German people a sadness that will never leave me. I watched as the Vopos (East German guards under Russian control) would violently arrest people that tried to cross the ten meter zone and even shoot and kill at times. A society divided by a wall or whatever cannot stand.

    November 5, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  3. goose bumps

    I never thought the day would come that the Berlin Wall would come down. Boy was I wrong. I turn on the TVand I instantly got goose bumps all over my body just seeing the people climb over the wall. They were jumping for joy and there were so many families reunited and it was one of the best feelings in the world. I was so happy for these people as they would be able to discover the freedom that they had been longing for. You could just feel the emotions.

    November 5, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Reply
  4. Linda

    I was a graduate student at Boston University and was in Germany doing research when the wall came down. I traveled back and forth between Heidelberg and Leipzig during my 2 1/2 years in Germany. I was lucky enough to be in Leipzig the day before and was told by one of the reseachers at the DHFK that we should all head to Berlin. We did and I stood on the wall the night it opened. I spent most of the day in East Berlin taking pictures between Check Point Charlie and the Brandenbourger Tor. In the evening, I managed a ride West, with a US military couple, who I didn't even know. They had just crossed to the East for the day and were headed back. They agreed to take me along because I had an American passport. They opened the sunroof and let me stand and take pictures of the crowd as we crossed into the west. It was an amazing trip. One I will never forget!!! The East German police would reach up and high five me as we drove through the crowds. The same police that couldn't crack a smile 10 days earlier when I had crossed into East Germany.

    November 5, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Reply
  5. Louise

    I flew from Canada to visit my fiancée in West Berlin in 1988, and went through Checkpoint Charlie to spend a day in East Berlin, never imagining that just one year later, there would be no more checkpoint.

    I visited again in November and December of 1989, and we were in that massive crowd at the Gate Brandenburg. We even chiseled out a piece of the wall ourselves, and today, we have it in our living room here in Canada. A piece of history.

    Who would have thought???!!!!

    November 5, 2009 at 9:23 pm | Reply
  6. Lee

    I'm an ex-political refugee from then Czechoslovakia. We had to flee when the Warszaw Pact invaded on 21st August 1968 after the Prague Spring. My mother and then my step-father were charged with treason. Our family was split and we migrated to Australia. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the Wall starting to crumble from Down Under. I was ever fearful that Kremlin (Gorbatchev) would interfere – he did not. I was hoping that the Czechoslovak people would rise up and the attack on the students on the 18th November was the catalyst which galvanised the people against the Communist Regime. When the regime crumbled and the Obcanske Forum (OF) lead by Vaclav Havel came to power all I could do is cry. The prospect of seeing my biological dad, my ssister, brother and the rest of the family was too good to be true. I wanted so much to be a part of it and be there, but I had a career. I took a voluntary redundancy the following year and after 23 years was re-united with my family. It was a heart-wrenching, and at times very harrowing time. I've been back many times since then. Thanks to the fall of the Wall and to Gorbachev, my family and I can meet whenever we want to. (I now live in Austria with my partner). I'm forever grateful to Gorbachev's foresight to let and let live! Freedom is so precious, I am so fortunate.

    November 5, 2009 at 9:42 pm | Reply
  7. Christian Müller

    I grew up in East Germany. Our standard of living was actually o.k. But what was really disturbing was that we could not travel outside the eastern block and that we could not speak freely your (esp. political) opinion. I felt that I was an inmate of a gigantic prison. I felt an incredible joy the day the wall fell. Two days after the wall fell I traveled to the West German city of Lübeck. I was impressed in what great shape the old buildings were (unlike in the East). I knew that this would change my life, and it did. I traveled a lot since. Now I live in New England and I am happily married to an American woman. This would not be possible with the wall still beeing up.

    November 5, 2009 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  8. FBd

    SHAME!!!!!
    USA celebrate the fall of the wall , yet supports building wall in Palestine...how hypocrite.

    November 5, 2009 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  9. StefanZ

    Sorry to sound like a party-pooper, but the versions of history offered here are not only superficial, they are downright wrong.

    Caro W says she is happy that Germany has "lived in peace since then"... well it is the other way 'round: it wasn't until after the fall of the Berlin Wall that the Germany army, for the first time since WW2 took part again in wars of aggression, first in Yugoslavia and now in Afghanistan. Somethe neither the FRG nor the GDR ever did before 1989.

    And you think everybody is happy in East Germany now that the Wall is gone? Think again. Polls show that over 52% found things better before 1989 and that is also reflected in voting: in the last election, the Left Party which is composed of former Communists is still the strongest or second strongest Party in East Germany.
    That's the real story.

    November 5, 2009 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  10. w. sach

    Growing up on the "Iron curtain".. it was terrible as a child to hear the stories of people shot when they tried to get out.. on a visit to Berlin in a "Bus" sitting high and looking in to East Berlin along the wall, every corner a constant reminder , here some one was shot, there.. and the "East Berliners" looked at the bus with longing and we, sitting in the bus locked at them like they were different species ... it was sad..

    November 5, 2009 at 10:28 pm | Reply
  11. Timewilltell

    Yet, 20 years later a Brazilian Man is Barred From Living in U.S. with American Husband because of discrimination.The Couple was forced separated !!!
    "The Unite States of America Wall."
    The two men remain separated.
    Everyone should be allowed to be with, and build a family with, the person they love. Separate them is heartbreaking. You may not agree with gay rights, but keeping them apart is just so cruel and too much discrimination. The time will say that.

    November 5, 2009 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  12. fashback

    So many families reunited and happy afte Berlin Wall would come down.
    Yet, 20 years later a Brazilian Man( Genesio Oliveira) is Barred From Living in U.S. with American Husband(Tim Coco) because of discrimination.The Couple was forced separated !!!
    "The Unite States of America Wall."
    The two men remain separated.
    Everyone should be allowed to be with, and build a family with, the person they love. Separate them is heartbreaking. You may not agree with gay rights, but keeping them apart is just so cruel and too much discrimination. The time will say that.

    November 5, 2009 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  13. berthold

    hi all.

    in the sommer of i was vacationing/visiting my mother who had married a northern irish guy a year earlier. while there i tride tuning in to the my favorit radio station "american forces network" brocasting out of frankfurt germany. i could not tune it in so i looked for "voice of america" i wanted to listen to the news. i heard things about how 18000 east germany jumped the border from hungaria to austria on a single day. i did not understand it. day after day i heard thing like the east germans squatting the west german embecy in prag. there was a lot of these kind of storys.

    when i got back home to nürnberg bavaria. i had just turned 17 a month befor the wall fell. as the wall came down on the thursday 9th of november 1989 i did not really understand the full meaning of what was happening. i know it was big, real big. but as i went out on the friday morning thats when i understood what it really ment. what had just happend to our countries.

    there where lines out on to the side walk at mcdonalds and burger king. the goverment started giving out 100deutsch mark"begrüngs geld"(greeting money) to every east german. it was nuts the east germans where starved of consumer goods. it was a total invation.

    then a few months later the hourly wages started falling. there was a part highly skilled labour force in east germany and they where all losing thier jobs. i could not find a job or an "ausbildungs platz" aprentice position. it tuck me till sep 1990 to find a job.

    then less then a year later on the 3rd oct 1990 the reunifaction papers where singed. we where one germay. but we are still two germanys. there are the "wesies" and the "osies" and it will take time till we all truely are a single germany. maybe in another 20 years it will be so, i truely hope so.

    November 5, 2009 at 11:21 pm | Reply
  14. Edward Quinto

    One Berlin, One Germany, One Europe, One World

    My recollection of the late summer of 1988 was one of endless wonders for at a young age I made my very first trip to a great foreign country. I visited a country in Europe that left a lasting legacy in me and for which I came to know quite fondly as my second home. It all began with a very memorable letter of acceptance informing me of my participation in the 2nd International Training Program in Biotechnology (ITP). The letter came from GBF, Germany’s National Research Center for Biotechnology. GBF and the state of Lower Saxony funded generously my trip and stay in Germany. It brought me to the charming cities of Braunschweig, where GBF is located, as well as to Hannover, and Berlin. I consider this unforgettable six-week sojourn in Germany as the best thing that ever happened to me. Reminiscing on my arrival in Braunschweig, brings back fond memories of a cool beautiful sunny Sunday morning and a venerable city crisscrossed by clean streets of cobbled stone though almost devoid of people and vehicles. Since I come from a densely populated city like Manila, the difference for me becomes starkly conspicuous. Attendance in the trade fair known as Biotechnica 88 in Hannover and the cultural trip to Berlin was part of the ITP training course. The training course enriched me not only scientifically but culturally as well. It gave me a deep and profound standpoint as to Germany’s identity, culture, and role in the modern world. History tells us that it was just in the last century that Germany went through periods of revolutions, redemption, and resurrection. The mighty German Empire ruled by Prussia disintegrated after the First World War. A fleeting bright moment followed the collapse of the empire with the birth of the “Weimar Republic”. This beautiful republic, bearing the promise of freedom, peace, and prosperity for all Germans and Europeans, unfortunately died in its infancy. What followed was the darkest and most chilling period in world history: the rise to power of Hiltler’s National Socialist Party. Because of the NAZI, Germany suffered widespread destruction and utter defeat in the Second World War that left the whole of Europe in shamble. Though it seemed that everything was lost, Germany made acts of contrition and contrite reparation for his mortal misgivings. Soon the “Heart of Europe” underwent an immensely remarkable transformation marked by sincere reconciliation and rapid socio-economic development. Germany literally became the engine of peace and prosperity for Western Europe. In just a few years, the Fatherland rebuilds himself from the smoldering cauldron of the last world war to rise meteorically into today’s proud global economic power as a free, united, and flourishing German nation. Germany’s city of the world Berlin, once separated into two rival ways of life, has assumed a truly cosmopolitan personality breathing a sophisticated culture and a cheerful urbanity uniquely its own. When Pres. John F. Kennedy bravely visited Berlin and spoke the famous words “Ich bin ein Berliner”, a city instantly captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world. Suddenly everyone was a Berliner who knew fully well to which side of the divided city he belongs. It highlighted the great divide of “Us against Them”; of a world partitioned by the “iron curtain” living precariously on détente. When I visited Berlin for the first time in 1988 as part of my ITP course, I cannot help but ponder and marvel at the character of an occupied city; a city torn between west and east, democracy and communism, freedom and tyranny, heaven and hell. A city sanctified by the Nordic gods with beauty, power, and nobility. I experienced what it was like to cross into East Germany and to enter into West Berlin. As I toured the city striding along the wide sidewalks of the famous KuDam and visiting the partly destroyed Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, I saw American, British, French and Russian soldiers and an imposing wall dividing the city. This wall of shame stood arrogantly between the famed “Gate of Brandenburg” and me. All I can do was to stare at the Brandenburg Gate protruding behind the wall from my place of security within West Berlin. In 1990, I made my second trip to Germany to attend Biotechnica 90. Funding for this trip came through the kindness of the Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft (CDG). After attending Biotechnica 90, I went to straight to Berlin on my own initiative for it was something that I would not miss for the world. Something wonderful has happened in Berlin and I simply had to be a part of it. It was an afternoon of warm sunny blue skies when I arrived in Berlin and made a bee-line to the Brandenburg Gate. This time something remarkably wonderful was readily apparent unlike my previous visit in 1988. From afar, lo and behold, I saw the gate standing majestically free! The wall of shame that put us asunder in 1988, was nowhere to be found. I was able to enter without hindrance through the monumental colonnades bearing aloft the victorious chariot of Aurora, the goddess of dawn. Indeed, a new age of peace and prosperity has dawned on Germany and the world in 1989. As I gazed around me, I went through the gate slowly with much trepidation but with overwhelming sentiments of joy and thanksgiving. So thankful, that the mighty “Westerly Winds of Freedom” knocked down decisively like tumbling dominoes the Wall of Berlin followed by the Iron Curtain of Eastern Europe and finally the fortress of the powerful Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). What was once thought to be impossible, the unification of two German nations divided by conflicting global powers, happened overnight so miraculously without the loss of life? Not since the fall of the walls of Jericho has another wall in history received the ire of the free world to be torn down as the Berlin Wall. “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall” were the words of Pres. Ronald Reagan that reverberated like the loud trumpet sounds of Joshua’s army that soon brought down the Berlin Wall. In its wake, not only was a nation unified but a continent as well. Demarcation of East and West in Europe became a thing of the past and for the rest of the world as well. I strode happily behind the Brandenburg Gate all the way through the famous and spacious boulevard called “Unter den Linden Strasse” extending into the very heart of East Berlin. My triumphant march, full of fervor, took me all the way to the imposing monumental bronze statue of Emperor Frederick the Great. I was in East Berlin till evening as I enjoyed and treasured every moment of that historical day in September of 1990 as a year had not even passed since the dreaded wall still stood and divided the city. Indeed, it was fortunate for me to have the rare chance of being in divided Berlin in 1988 and in unified Berlin in 1990, the years between the historical events of 1989. If Tony Bennet left his heart in San Francisco, in Berlin I left not only my heart but my soul as well. I will never forget my Berlin experiences of 1988 and 1990 for it was indeed so great to be young then in Germany and to be caught up in a turning point in world history. Let us also not forget the major role played by our beloved Pope John Paul II in ending communism that actually started in his home country of Poland. In closing, on the occasion of the 20 years of anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, I am one with the free world in celebrating an event marking the birth of a new world of peace and prosperity.

    November 9, 2009 at 3:51 am | Reply
  15. Becky

    When the Berlin Wall fell, I was a ten-year old girl living in Canada. I remember getting caught up in the excitement of the pictures shown on TV although I was too young to understand the full political and social implications of the history that was unfolding before my eyes.

    Tomorrow, on November 9th, I will graduate with a Masters in Germanic studies on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Wall. I have visited Berlin twice and through my studies have gained an in-depth understanding of what "Die Wende" or the "change" or "turning point" of German reunification has meant for the former Eastern and Western states.
    When I see footage of the fall of the Wall from 1989 the exuberance of 20 years past comes flooding back. For me, the fall of the Wall is a symbol of liberty from political oppression and of the triumph of the human spirit. My thoughts about the historical toppling of that barrier can be summed up in a quote by Leonard Cohen:
    "There is a crack in everything...That's how the light gets in."

    November 9, 2009 at 8:24 am | Reply
  16. M Ariely

    FBd complains aginst the Israel wall

    Question: It is legitimate to build barriers preventing immigrates and not to prevent terrorists?
    Example of barriers in Arab countries:
    Saudi Arabia wall along Yemen border
    Saudi Arabia 900 km barrier along Iraq
    The Turkey separating Cyprus
    United Arab Emirates barrier along Oman
    Kuwait 215 km barrier along Iraq
    Morocco 2750 km wall along Algeria
    Many additional barriers in Europe, USA , India, Pakistan, Thailand .

    Those barriers are quitelt accepted. Only Israel wall:

    'Berlin wall" was build to keep people desiring freedom inside East Germany.

    "The wall in Israel" is build to protect the free Israeli people from Arab terrorist attacks.

    November 10, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Reply
  17. Alisson de Oliveira(male)

    It's a momment that nobody will forget. The day of the world becames one.

    November 12, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Reply

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