Tag Archives: Berlin Wall

An Ode to Berlin – and to my Grandma

By Lisann Rothe

“East Ger­man con­struc­tion work­ers build­ing the Berlin Wall.” Pho­to Cred­it: Nation­al Archives

“It’s August 13, 1961 – the day East Berlin starts build­ing the wall,” my grand­ma remembers.

“On Sun­day night, August 13, Wal­ter Ulbricht, East Ger­man head of state, issues an order to close the Berlin bor­der. Police forces put up barbed wire fences. With­in one day, West Berlin became an island in the sea of com­mu­nism. Trains do not run any­more, and West and East Berlin­ers stand shocked on oppo­site sides of the border.

I hear about it at Moabit hos­pi­tal, where I just gave birth to my first child on August 9. I remem­ber being afraid of a new war and feel­ing help­less in the hos­pi­tal, alone with my child, bare­ly 20 years old. Also, we’re sep­a­rat­ed from our fam­i­ly. My grand­par­ents lived in the Russ­ian sec­tor after the war, just ten min­utes from where we lived in the Amer­i­can sec­tor. My hus­band had fled to West Berlin from Ros­tock in the East to mar­ry me. His par­ents, grand­par­ents, sis­ter, and oth­er rel­a­tives still live there. I feel so help­less and yearn for my fam­i­ly. The future seems so unsure.”

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A Gift that Keeps Giving: The American Memorial Library in Berlin

By Svenja Dörflinger

“Today we are lay­ing the cor­ner­stone of the Amer­i­can Memo­r­i­al Library. It is to be open to all who desire to enter and learn what men of all nations and all beliefs have thought and writ­ten. It is the free­dom to learn, to study, to seek the truth. This is the essence of a free soci­ety. This is the source of our great­est strength.”

It’s the year 1952 – a hot June day in West Berlin. The city’s may­or, Ernst Reuter; U.S. High Com­mis­sion­er for Ger­many, John McCloy; and Amer­i­can Sec­re­tary of State, Dean Ache­son, are lay­ing the cor­ner­stone for the first Amer­i­can pub­lic library in Ger­many, the Ameri­ka Gedenkbib­lio­thek (Amer­i­can Memo­r­i­al Library). In his speech, Ache­son not only gives hope to the peo­ple of Berlin – who live in a divid­ed city after a hor­ren­dous war – he also deliv­ers a mes­sage that is per­haps more top­i­cal than ever.

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Forget What the History Books Say: How David Hasselhoff Broke Down the Berlin Wall

By Aaron Baumgart

“[This] again proves my the­o­ry that Ger­mans love David Has­sel­hoff,” con­cludes Norm Mac­don­ald on his Sat­ur­day Night Live seg­ment “Week­end Update” in the ear­ly 90s. The crowd roars with laugh­ter, the punch­line has become a favorite among them for quite a while. “Those sil­ly Ger­mans,” Macdonald’s eyes seems to say.

Over twen­ty years lat­er, the joke might not be remem­bered but the sen­ti­ment cer­tain­ly per­sists. Many Ger­mans com­plain on their trav­el blogs about get­ting asked about “The Hoff” while trav­el­ing around the USA. Some of them bare­ly know who he is. Indeed, today’s young adults might only faint­ly remem­ber Has­sel­hoff for run­ning around in red shorts, talk­ing to cars, and hav­ing his drunk­en mis­de­meanors cap­tured on cam­era. This has not always been the case.

Dur­ing the 1980s, both of Hasselhoff’s shows, Knight Rid­er and Bay­watch, were large­ly cel­e­brat­ed in Ger­many. That is to say, not only in Ger­many. Bay­watch was export­ed into 144 coun­tries with over a bil­lion peo­ple world­wide sit­ting in front of their TVs every week. His shows fea­tured ele­ments that were excit­ing for Ger­man view­ers: futur­is­tic tech­nol­o­gy and attrac­tive young actors in very lit­tle cloth­ing on sun­ny beach­es. “The Hoff” con­se­quent­ly made his way into Ger­man mag­a­zines for teens – like Bra­vo and Mäd­chen – but so did John Tra­vol­ta and Patrick Swayze. What made Has­sel­hoff so different?

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Personal Recollections: The Fall of the Wall Part Two

By Bobbie Kirkhart, Evangelia Kindinger, Lynette Kirschner, Maria Moss, Monica Ortez, Cheryce von Xylander

This week’s installment concludes our series on the fall of the Berlin Wall. Enjoy!

 

Pho­to cred­it: Doris Antony
Bobbie Kirkhart, Los Angeles

When I was very young, I imag­ined there was a wall just beyond my view, mak­ing sure I could not ven­ture into the for­bid­den world. It made a strange shape, sur­round­ing all the ter­ri­to­ry I could explore and block­ing every­where I could not. Per­haps it was that I was by far the youngest in my fam­i­ly, so that every­one else was an adult in my eyes and there­fore free. What­ev­er the rea­son, I accept­ed as sim­ple truth that I was banned from a world where every­one else was free to go. As I grew old­er, I real­ized that the wall was a metaphor, but I saw it as no less a real­i­ty in my life.

I was well into my 40s when that changed.

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Personal Recollections: The Fall of the Wall

By Marlena Voigts, Andreas Hübner, Michaela Keck, Christoph Strobel, Roger L. Nichols

Pho­to cred­it: Doris Antony
Marlena Voigts, Hamburg

Nov. 9, 1989: I was lying in bed when I thought I heard the phone ring. The next morn­ing, there was in fact a mes­sage on my answer­ing machine from about 3 a.m. “Hi Mar­lena! You won’t believe where I am. (Pause) I’m in the West, at my Aunt’s house in West Berlin! It’s just unbelievable!”

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Remembering the Fall of the Wall

By Martina Kohl

In hon­or of the 30thanniver­sary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Blog will remem­ber this spec­tac­u­lar event in his­to­ry through the eyes of peo­ple from around the world dur­ing the next few weeks.

Bran­den­burg Gate Today. Pho­to cred­it: U.S. Embassy

 

When Every­thing Changed

“Your friend Jörg called. There’s some­thing going on at the bor­der.” “What bor­der, the Hun­gar­i­an?” I was tak­ing off my coat think­ing of the pic­tures I’d seen of Hun­gar­i­an bor­der patrols cut­ting the wire fence and let­ting East Ger­mans through only a few months before. “He said you should turn on the TV.” And so I did, and there they were, the cel­e­brat­ing Berlin­ers climb­ing on top of the wall, wel­com­ing stunned East Berlin­ers, joined in deliri­ous joy for the first time in four decades. And here I was, almost 7,000 kilo­me­ters away in Ann Arbor, Michi­gan, where I’d been teach­ing for the last four years.

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