Marking the End of the Iron Curtain

Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the day the gates were opened in the Berlin Wall.

This would be an appropriate occasion to watch or re-watch the excellent film The Lives Of Others, which is told from the standpoint of an agent in East Germany’s immense internal spying apparatus.  I also recommend Anna Funder’s superb book Stasiland, in which she describes her 1994 trip to the former East Germany and reconstructs the way things were in the days of Communist rule.  I reviewed it here.

Also, here’s an interesting story about Harald Jaeger, an East German border guard whose snap decision was the right one.

11 thoughts on “Marking the End of the Iron Curtain”

  1. The world did not ignore the differences between nations split into Communist and not-Communist states. I remember a conversation at a rig in the Bolivian Chaco. A Bolivian engineer had seen both Germanies on a trip to Europe. The differences were not difficult for him to see. I knew a German grad student in the US for a semester who was a resident of Berlin. When he was a schoolboy he had taken a piece of the Wall after it fell. The Wall had more significance for him than it did for most. His father, a Bulgarian national, had crossed over to West Berlin inside the trunk of a car.

  2. I am still kicking myself that I missed a chance to be in Berlin for New Years Eve that year. A guy I knew was going and he came back with a piece of the Wall.

    He dropped dead on a treadmill a few years later and I am still here so, what can I say ?

  3. Great movie. My mother had a friend in West Germany who had relatives on the other side. Dreadful. Their lives were consumed with worry and effort to get them over. I don’t know how it ended. I foolishly thought it was over when that wall came down.

  4. I was in Spain, when the Wall came down … and it was … kind of unreal to contemplate, at first. The Wall was such a permanent-seeming thing, and so many East Germans had died, trying to cross over, from the moment it was built to the very day before it came down.

    I had friends in Spain, who went and took leave or TDY to see it, and the aftermath. It just seemed so unreal, that it all melted away, in a week or so – something which had seemed so permanent.

    One of the sad things, which my various traveling friends told me about – was about the awesome bargains to be had in purchasing vintage knick-knacks … from East Germans selling them at bargain prices; china, crystal, clocks and lovely bits of furniture. Here they were, selling family treasures, which they had managed to hold on to for decades … just so they could now get by … and now they were reduced to selling them for pennies on the dollar.

  5. I’d recommend this book – recommended by you David? Stasiland – Stories from beind the Berlin Wall.

    I was astounded at how fact things changed in Eastern Europe – having known nothing but the Cold War – it was suddenly ….ended.

  6. Interestingly enough, Google’s front page today has an image purportedly celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall. That would be the Google of “Caesar Chavez for Easter” and other regular prop art bits. Perhaps it’s to be interpreted as the cover art of Abbey Road was?

  7. We lived in southern Sudan during the first half of the 80’s, and made frequent visits to Kenya during that time.

    Quite a number of our African colleagues, and also people we randomly met, had done educational stints either in the West or in the Soviet bloc.

    Those who went to the West, even to England, often came back with feelings of resentment based on how much further advanced those societies were than their Africans were. (E.g. nothing in their experience with American and European expats prepared them for the situation in America where even large numbers of the poor owned a car! A CAR!!!!!)

    Those who went east, on the other hand, universally came back with the feeling that, regardless of what Africa’s problems were, the solutions were NOT to be found in emulating the Soviets.

  8. That people should be told Capitalism is brutal, exploitative, etc., then believe it all their lives in defiance of reality exposes something disturbing in human nature. Perhaps someday their will be a book about how and why people believed the deceits of our time.

    “the solutions were NOT to be found in emulating the Soviets”

    Apparently only those educated in the West became dictators. If only some of the Soviet-educated students had become anti-Socialist dictators. I admit I’m not that familiar with the dozens (hundreds?) of African tyrants since WW2: were there any anti-Socialist dictators educated in Moscow?

    “now they were reduced to selling them for pennies on the dollar”

    Or selling for dollars on the Mark der DDR. Whatever the just price of what they were selling, they received a better currency than possible in the DDR.

  9. I go over to HuffPo once in a while to tilt at lefty windmills. Today I found a gem.

    “Rest assured that those communist states did, in fact, reap huge profits from reduced or non-existent regulations.”

    This from a thread on the GOP “threat” to the EPA. There is just no common language with the left.

  10. Speaking of revisionist thinking, I bet everyone here didn’t know that communism was defeated by the European social safety net.

    Yes, of course, all those East Berliners knocked down the wall so they could finally pick up their unemployment checks.

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