The human element of the fall of the Berlin Wall

When Annie Macnaughton left the comfortable bubble of cosmopolitan Melbourne in 1990, she knew about the horrors of war and persecution, albeit secondhand.

Annie

She was well read, educated, from a family who travelled and regularly discussed world events at the dinner table.

SW6_925_in_Flinders_St_on_the_City_Circle_in_Melbourne_Art_Tram_livery,_2013
Melbourne 1990

She knew about the bitter standoff that was the Cold War and that only months before, the Berlin Wall had fallen.

Annie and her friend Cath left Australia in April 1990 and arrived in Berlin on the 1st July that year.

Annie and Cath on the Berlin Wall, July 1990
Annie and Cath on the Berlin Wall, 1st July 1990

This was the day that East and West Germany ceased to exist and when the East Germans were given their Deutschmarks.

She received one of the last ever stamps for East Germany in her passport, a lasting imprint of a country and a movement disappearing as fast as the ink dried on the paper.

One of the last East German stamps ever given.
One of the last East German stamps ever given.

What could very well be deemed a rite of passage for Annie, was coinciding with millions of people experiencing their own rites of passage, the right to freedom for the very first time.

Migration through Bernauer November 12th 1989.

Annie and Cath entered East Berlin through the now famous Checkpoint Charlie, which for 28 years had been the only crossing point for foreigners and members of the Allied forces. They were in a little red car with their two West Berlin friends Christof and Andreas.

Checkpoint Charlie and the 1950's cars from East Berlin crossing through.
Checkpoint Charlie and the 1950’s cars from East Berlin crossing through.

Before they entered East Berlin, they stopped at a small museum, haphazardly erected at Checkpoint Charlie.

Checkpoint Charlie 1990
Checkpoint Charlie 1990

Desoltion, decay and war stories aside it was in this tiny museum that Annie found herself moved instead by something very beautiful.

She wrote in her journal of that time.

I was moved most by the video showing the faces of East Germans at a free concert given for them by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. They looked totally stunned and quite sad to be heading what must be a great wish for so many of them.
I was moved most by the video showing the faces of East Germans at a free concert given for them by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. They looked totally stunned and quite sad to be hearing what must be a great wish for so many of them.

Annie is referencing footage from Sunday 12 November 1989. A free concert was put on in West Berlin for East Berliners following the opening of border crossings at midnight on the 9th November.

It was perhaps the first time most East Berliners had ever experienced their own Philharmonic Orchestra.

Annie says more about how she felt when she watched this very clip, 25 years ago.

Audience4

Audience1 Audience5

   Audience3 Audience6
Audience7

After leaving the Checkpoint Charlie museum, Annie’s experience of the day in East Berlin conveys two main messages; dullness and silence.

Wall1
The other side of the Wall
East Berlin 1990
East Berlin 1990

The small but potent value of stories like this is to take our understanding of persecution and war from our minds to our hearts.

Fall_of_the_Berlin_Wall_1989,_people_walking_Source Wikimedia Commons
Crossing through the Wall 1989

It reminds us that life is not only hard because basic necessities are harder to come by or restrictions are in place. But it’s also the denial of beauty, expressed through art and music, which strips people of something very fundamentally human.

Berlin_1989,_Fall_der_Mauer,_Chute_du_mur_08_Source Wikimedia Commons
Berliners chopping away pieces of the Wall 1989

Annie says she came home from that trip the same but different. It reinforced what she already knew and she now imparts her understanding from this onto her own children.

Sometimes it is the smallest moments, the ones we are not expecting – like a moment of great music – that shift us into realising what unites us as human beings is far greater than what separates us.

 

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2 thoughts on “The human element of the fall of the Berlin Wall

  1. I found your blog wandering…I don’t even know how I started of the day wandering, but that’s par for my life. I enjoyed your story, the feel of your words and images, and so I’m coming along for the ride! I remember when the wall fell in Berlin, and the music of the Scorpions and their song, “Winds of Change.” A great article by the writer of the song is here (http://www.aljazeera.com/focus/theberlinwall/2009/10/2009102084054951600.html). But music moves us in ways that visuals cannot.
    If you ever get to wandering, come over to http://www.humoringthegoddess.com and check out both my mid-life blog, and my Sunday Evening Art Gallery.

    1. Hi Claudia,

      Enjoy the wandering and I’m glad it brought you across this piece. It is a wonderful story of an interesting time in recent history. I love your blog, what a nice exchange. Keep on keeping on 🙂

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