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Is world really a better place without Berlin Wall?

November 9th, 2009
11:44 AM ET

The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 heralded the fall of communism in Europe and ultimately the end of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/09/art.wall.afp.gi.jpg caption="Graffiti is painted on Berlin Wall on West Berlin side while East German and Soviet flags fly on the other side of the East Berlin no-mans-land spiked with anti-tanks traps."]

Overnight the world changed. Suddenly the people of eastern Europe were able to travel freely. Many of the former countries of the Soviet bloc eventually joined the European Union and Nato, something that would have been unimaginable before the Wall fell.

While all this has meant the threat of imminent nuclear war in Europe is over, many remain nostalgic for the strict certainties of the old regimes, when a job for life was common despite economic deprivation.  Reunification of Germany has also proved to be easier said than done while many point to resurgent nationalism in the former Soviet bloc as a worrying trend.

We want you to share your memories and to hear your comments. Tell us where you were when the Wall fell. Do you think the world is a better place now? How has it changed and have lessons been learned? We will try to use as many comments as possible on tonight's Connect the World show.

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soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Bones

    Is world really a better place without Berlin Wall? Millions of people freed from the oppression of Soviet hegemony and you even have to ASK this question?

    November 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  2. JohnHarry

    The fall of the Iron curtain did not really hit home for me until 1999.
    while serving onboard the USS Winston S Churchill DDG-81. I heard the accent of one sailor, I had a sense of disbelief "A RUSSIAN onboard my ship" ? One of my best friends Leo, from Kazakhstan.
    Probally one of the best fellow sailors i have ever served with. I was stationed in Puerto Rico when the actual wall fell.

    November 9, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  3. Rob Nuijten, the Netherlands

    The world being a better place now or not, has probably less to do with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and much more with the devastating War on Terror, based on the ideology: If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists'. That makes a terrorist out of everybody ot agreeing with US policy. That;s most people on earth. Can you immagine how many the US army still needs to kill?

    November 9, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  4. Aligbo Mihael Agbeze, Nigeria

    I was in South Eastern Nigeria of Onitsha when my world favourite radio, the BBC, dropped the news at 4.am world news. I did not think it impossible event that the Berlin Wall has fallen since I know that only change is permanent on earth. The Wall has fallen for good and the world is better for it. Only God deserves glory for the mighty event.

    November 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  5. Daniel De Smedt

    I live in Germany, and I can say that many of the Western German's still feel disdain and even hatred towards the Eastern German's. I have heard many comments towards the East that have no place here, and it honestly makes no difference to me, but when I hear some of them say that the wall should have never gone down, then I feel like they don't understand how the wall got there in the first place.

    November 9, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  6. JUST DIEGO Italy...

    Are we really in the Age of the no borders??? Globalization and nuisance... this is the smell of our lives...

    November 9, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  7. Paul

    The question is moot...

    Before the wall, things were good for some and bad for others...

    Today things are still thus...

    November 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  8. Jimmie

    I was in Ibadan my home town in Nigeria, and just about to join my cousin in Berlin, when the news was read out by BBC, that the Berlin wall has finally fallen down.

    The fall of Berlin wall is very important to the whole world. Many of this type of Walls will one day fall again and again, from North/ South Koreans, The Cuban wall, The Isreal/Palestina wall, The black /White race wall. The Terrorists wall, The Muslim/Christian wall, The Religion walls, etc. etc. All this so called walls we one day perish like the Berlin wall and become HISTORY. Do your best please, to eliminate any wall you are taken side with. God bless you all. Amen.

    November 9, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  9. Albert Richie

    We lived under the terror of total nuclear war 24/7. You always felt that it could happen every moment. Going to school and thinking about your future under those circumstances was surreal.

    Is the world a better place to live now? You bet it is!

    November 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  10. Rufus Chapman

    Žižek offers an interesting analysis of the post-Soviet era which suggests that asking such a simple question about one of the most profound shifts in socio-political-economic history is perhaps not best answered with a 'yes' or a 'no'.

    It can be read here:

    November 9, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  11. Yvette Robertson

    I'm an American expatriate who has worked in Berlin for ten years as a Business English trainer. My clients come from both East and West Berlin and many of them remember vividly the events surrounding the fall of the wall. I am profoundly grateful to them for sharing the stories of their lives both before and after the wall fell. Tonight, I will go to the Brandenburg gate and drink a toast to these brave people who have so warmly welcomed me to live in their country and share in their experience.

    November 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  12. olotata

    The fall of Berlin wall created mess than order. If it did not fall, there would be a soverign peaceful Yugoslovia, no 9/11, no Iraq occupation, no Afaganistan mess, no Georgian war. It makes USA act arrogantly with impunity.

    November 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Reply
  13. Gerrie

    It is better that the wall fell down. But the world is still not better than it was. Hate and violence come from the human heart. Taking down a wall does not change that.

    November 9, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Reply
  14. Simon Gerdemann, Germany

    Talk to just one reunited family. It doesn't take more to answer the question.

    November 9, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  15. Akobe

    Berlin wall was a sign of world order. The fall gave USA oppotunity to manifest it's greed for oil and global domination freely. It has has defacto given USA immunity to kill with a slogan of freedom. May all the guilt of all who have died for this course lay on Gorbachov.

    November 9, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Reply
  16. Rufus Chapman

    The question, however, is not specifically about the Berlin wall. The debate centers around the end of the Cold War. I think the debate will be much richer if analyzed from that point of view rather than focusing on the reunification of Berlin.

    November 9, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  17. Chris, Ireland

    My brother who has lived in Berlin since shortly after the fall of the wall tells the only joke I can tell in German which translates thus:

    When the wall fell an East Berliner runs across no-man's land and meets a West Berliner. Embracing him he says ."We are one people" to which he receives the terse reply "Yes, so are we."
    The fall of the wall was a good thing but has the mindset of those who were on opposite sides of it caught up yet? In history, 20 years is a short time

    November 9, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  18. victor leyer

    Of course it´s a better place. After the fall of the berlin wall, the US stopped the killing of innocent women and children overseas so no terrorist group has emerged since, no more people are dying of AIDS because we erradicated the disease, we also erradicated malaria, TB, and neumonia so no more children in Africa had to died of easily cured diseases. We have reduced our carbon print by 50% otherwise we could be dealing right now with the warming of the globe and could be losing precious species of animals and plants. We also stopped our overconsuming ways so no children in Asia continued to be exploited by working 18 hours a day for half a dollar. The US, Israel, India and Pakistan, which are not belic countries anyway, destroyed their nuclear weapons so that no other countries would want to follow their example. And of course we are no longer controled by the media, like when they used to tell us that the fall of a wall really changed the world, when billions of poverty-stricken, disease-ridden children dont even know what or where Germany is.

    November 9, 2009 at 6:23 pm | Reply
  19. Renn Loren

    It is the best of times. It is the worst of times.

    November 9, 2009 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  20. Paul

    Despite the downfalls of that bygone era, I can say that I for one do miss the days of the Cold War. In that era, the US actually had a country to rival their own, one to fear so to speak.

    America, since the fall of the wall and consequently Communism in Europe has now been given the ability to exercise their form of "capitalism" freely without any nation to stand in their way.

    At least in the bygone era, there was something called "balance" in that instability which existed. Now, our lives are one of excess; just look at who caused the economic meltdown in 2008. Who else than the Americans who tried to live outside their means.

    If the world is a courthouse, then America now plays the role of Judge, Jury and Executioner.

    November 9, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Reply
  21. wuregan

    The Wall Crumbles
    It's one of the few breaks the world has received through out the ages. When talking to people from the satelite States of the Soviet Union, I had tried for years during the 1980's to create hope in people from that region. I suggested that a vast sea of dispair was coming to an end. I had been suggesting to people I had met personally from that region of the world, that the Soviet Union was being undone by it's authoritarian minority rule and dominance over the unwilling majority. Look at any of the many similar scenerios, and a similar dispair reappears in North Korea – Iran – Former Burma – and other Military – Authoritarian styled governing in countries where the rulers gained power without a fair legal democratic representative election. My current hope is that people in the similar sceneriios will obtain freedom and independence without civil, regional, or international war. That is my new hope following the crumble of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Best regards – wuregan

    November 9, 2009 at 8:48 pm | Reply
  22. Jerry

    How can you even dare to ask such a question? Central and Eastern Europe had been virtually invaded and literally invaded between 1945 and 1989. Czechoslovakia had been invaded and occupied by Russian troops in 1968. 1956 Hungary had been brutally suppressed during the student revolts. Ceaucescu the Romanian dictator had built the second largest building in the world-a monument to his own ego while people lived in abject poverty.

    I think it's time to turn in your journalistic credentials and SHAME ON CNN for even publishing this!!

    I am an American, currently living in Prague, Czech Republic and lived through the cold war. I cannot begin to tell you how such a question makes me feel.

    November 9, 2009 at 9:22 pm | Reply
  23. Sam Stewart

    I have lived in Germany since December 1985. From 1985 until May 1990 I served in the US Army near Stuttgart. The mission I and the nearly 250,000 US soldiers in Germany trained for everyday was to protect the West against an attack from the East, an attack that no doubt would have lead to a nuclear conflict. I remember when I heard that the Wall had fallen; I could not believe it. I was happy but also unsure as to what this meant for us, the Protectors of the Frontier, the Heralds of Democracy. I remember thinking our job here is finished. When I watched the celebration on TV over the next days I cried, it was truly a Autumn of Change a change whose time had come.

    November 9, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Reply
  24. The Neutral man

    It's a pertinent question.
    My answer is no. World has become increasingly violent, scary place to live once it became unipolar with US hegemony dominating the world and its only rival being Islamist terrorism.
    Berlin wall gone and you go and ask the ppl there: No real positive change. More Nazis. More ultranationalism. Eastern germans still poor and desperate.
    The real hope now is on China and India taking on the US filthy domination.

    November 9, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Reply
  25. Balazs Kovacs, Hungary

    I just wish to note, that we should not forget, what a key moment it was, when Hungary opened its border to Austria in summer 1989 and enabled thousands of people and families from the GDR to cross the Iron Curtain into freedom. It would be great if CNN would show pictures of people running towards the border leaving theirs cars behind on the roadside.

    November 9, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Reply
  26. Tomas, Hungary

    This is a kind of question, spoiled, naive, blind west-europians ask. only a person who hasn't really first-handed experienced life under Communism, Antisemitism or Fanatic religious regimes has the nerve to ask such a question!
    yes, the world is far from perfect and so is the power leading it (the u.s.a) and we have a distance to walk.....but before you ask such questions – think about the alternatives! don't take things as simple as freedom of speech for granted!
    the world in general and europe in particular, is a safer, better place. even if just a bit.

    November 9, 2009 at 10:47 pm | Reply
  27. Tali Berzins

    Are you serious? The Fall of the Wall was a triumph of humanity. It of course didn't mean that all the world's problems would go away.

    November 10, 2009 at 1:09 am | Reply
  28. Gogot Maurice

    The world will be a better place to live as long as America is present

    November 10, 2009 at 2:45 am | Reply
  29. Frankie

    "Overnight the world changed" – really? How about millions of Poles joining the illegal Solidarity movement almost a decade earlier, when very few could imagine the fall of the Berlin Wall in their wildest dreams? That is where the domino effect got initiated. It took many years of folks standing up for the right thing, while oftentimes putting their own careers and lives at risk. It is quite silly to summarize this with a phrase "Overnight the world changed". Real life is more than a cartoon and deserves more profound reporting even though most of us might suffer from ADD by now.

    November 10, 2009 at 3:08 am | Reply
  30. Davis Steigerwalt

    Communism was as bad as Fascism. Thanks God we do not have to fear the Communist anymore.

    November 10, 2009 at 3:37 am | Reply
  31. Duane Dizon, Philippines

    i could not agree with what the media, and the West is instilling on people's minds: that the wall fell because of Western pressure, especially "so-called crusader" Ronald Reagan. the wall fell because of changes from the East, and not pressure from the West. also, East Germans actually did not push for reunification per se, rather, they just wanted reforms..as for the present 'celebration', for me, the world is not a better place with only one superpower bullying others. but the balance will soon be changed too, thanks to the reemergence of Russia and the ever growing power China..

    November 10, 2009 at 3:48 am | Reply
  32. Will Helwig

    I am an American who has been here in Germany for over 30 yrs. Part of me would like to have the wall back. After the wall came down US troops were sent home (as well as Soviet troops) and many many bases have since been closed. The economies around and near these bases have been hit hard with the end of the cold war. Jobs are more scarce these days more than ever. I guess the fat financially decades of the 70´s and 80s are gone forever.

    November 10, 2009 at 6:57 am | Reply
  33. Ishrat Rumy

    I agree with Jimmie. A group of people always continue building new walls, and another group tries to break those; an ad infinitum process. Let us not be among the wall-builders which create division, hostility and hatred for each other.

    Perhaps, we can look at the fall of Berlin Wall from the Kant’s notion of categorical imperative, i.e. individual should treat others in a way they wish to be treated.

    November 10, 2009 at 7:17 am | Reply
  34. Jordie

    I agree with Bones. People died and people suffered under the communist regimes. This CAN NOT be forgotten.

    I'm currently at university studying German language and culture and will spend next year studying in Germany.

    I've recently had to complete an essay about 'Ostalgie', or nostalgia for the former GDR. It's an interesting topic and I found that people are now looking back on the "good" old days of the GDR. People are remembering all the positive things but starting to block out the bad. A survey found that only 30% of East Germans have a negative view of socialism. Another survey had 70% of them stating that they could do without the freedoms where so many millions are jobless.

    But I think if push came to shove, you'd see their minds change. People died under in the GDR and other former communist states for expressing their point of view. They were not paradises, even if everyone did have a job. It was a place where you genuinely feared for your life. I for one do believe that the fall of the Berlin wall was one of the greatest moments in history and gave so many millions their rightful freedoms.

    If the wall had not fallen, what hope would there be for those still living under political repression in China, North Korea and the various other totalitarian regimes around the world?

    November 10, 2009 at 7:27 am | Reply
  35. SS

    In celebration of the berlin wall, a few palestinans activists have broken through the wall Isreal has built around them (an illegal wall according to the International Court of Justice). Is the world a better place? I agree with the comment made by Rob Nuijten.

    November 10, 2009 at 7:36 am | Reply
  36. Sharif Chowdhury

    People never learn, they might break one wall but in the same time they keep building another 10 !!! There is a wall in Nicosia , capital of Cyprus dividing Greeks and Turks, there is a wall in Palestine dividing Palestinians from their own land ! (ooops this is CNN ...hope it gets through !!!!), and how about those Walls of Racism and Discriminations in Europe !?

    November 10, 2009 at 8:28 am | Reply
  37. Marian Nielsen

    The world is definitely a better place in some respects, particularly when it comes to democracy, governance & freedom in Europe and other Western democracies but in other respects, we are seeing retrogression and attacks from extremists and terrorists which makes many wonder if indeed it is a cyclical process as humans never seem to learn from history and allow history to repeat itself.

    November 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Reply
  38. Prem Nizar Hameed

    The fall of the Berlin wall was symbolic for some other invisible walls to cave in: The wall between the rich and the poor; the walls among races; the walls among religions; the wall between genders. We have to go a long way to demolish these walls. The concrete or iron walls could collapse easily. But the mental walls are so strong that no bulldozer can demolish. A world without such invisible walls is my dream. If God is there, please fulfill my dream. Come on dears, let us go for that.

    November 12, 2009 at 9:24 am | Reply
  39. fernando Bedoya

    We in Latin America, especially in Colombia, suffered the cold war to extents still ununderstood by or unknown to the rest of the world. Mr. Chavez would like to rekindle all that these days. Anyway, right after the fall of the wall, we thought the world would be a better place, and there would be dialog between Russia and the west It never materialized. And little did we know of the horrors of islamic extremism.

    November 13, 2009 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  40. JERZY




    November 16, 2009 at 8:25 pm | Reply
  41. Eugene Berkovich

    It's not a very simple question. There are more wars now. There is more terror. The bi-polarity of the Cold War guaranteed that USA and USSR did their utmost to never truly go at each other. Today, the unipolar world with one dominant power (free to behave as it please) is a far dangerous place to live.

    November 16, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Reply

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