November 01, 2009

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

November 9, 1989

What did I know about the Berlin Wall during my Soviet childhood? Nothing, or almost nothing. In August 1961, the East German authorities (the GDR, as we knew them) slammed shut the door to West Berlin, hurriedly stringing barbed wire and then erecting a gloomy concrete barrier that stretched more than 100 kilometers and extended almost six meters high. I was too little at the time to remember any of this.

And later, as far as I can remember, nothing was ever said about any of this. The wall was not mentioned in textbooks, which simply informed us about a very "democratic" German Democratic Republic and a "reactionary" and "revanchist" Federal Republic of Germany. There was certainly no mention of any wall on radio or television, and nobody wrote about it in the newspaper. For the Soviet people, it simply did not exist. And when you get right down to it, why should people used to living behind the iron curtain get upset about a concrete wall? But there was something puzzling here.

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