Tag Archives: Berlin

Iron Curtain, Please

By Michael Lederer

One man’s trash is another’s treasure.

Vladimir the Small, as his­to­ry is sure to remem­ber him, has pulled the iron cur­tain off the trash pile and ordered it rehung. His secu­ri­ty blan­ket. Thir­ty years exposed to West­ern ideas of choice – enough of that. Obe­di­ence or destruc­tion, enough choice for his people.

The good old days.

Pho­to Cred­it: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989

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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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All the Stories That We (Were) Told

By Nora Benitt

Pixar’s Rules of Sto­ry­telling by Pro­found Whatever

Life writ­ing – which includes a wide spec­trum of sub-gen­res such as (auto)biography, mem­oir, let­ter, diary, (dig­i­tal) life sto­ries, and oral his­to­ries – has a long tra­di­tion in the U.S. and is becom­ing more and more pop­u­lar all over the world. An abun­dance of arti­facts com­piled by famous, semi-famous, and not-at-all-famous peo­ple fill pub­lic libraries, pri­vate book­shelves, research cen­ters, social media, hard dri­ves, and web­sites. And that’s actu­al­ly not even sur­pris­ing since writ­ing and/or talk­ing about our­selves is a deeply root­ed cul­tur­al prac­tice and comes very nat­u­ral­ly to most human beings. We do it all the time: We tell a sig­nif­i­cant some­one how our day was, we put togeth­er our résumé when apply­ing for a new job, we talk about child­hood mem­o­ries with sib­lings or a close friend. How­ev­er, talk­ing and writ­ing about our­selves in an aca­d­e­m­ic con­text and, to boot, in a for­eign lan­guage is a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent story.

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Taking Peace for Granted

By Michael Lederer

Pho­to Cred­it: Michael Led­er­er | Pho­to of Genia Chef’s “The Great Game,” oil on can­vas, 2013 (frag­ment)

It’s so easy to take peace for grant­ed, when we have it.

In my 2012 book, The Great Game: Berlin-War­saw Express and Oth­er Sto­ries, the char­ac­ter Cal, an Amer­i­can writer liv­ing in Berlin, com­mits the sin of lament­ing peace as dull. Board­ing the train for War­saw at Zoo sta­tion, look­ing out his win­dow as the Reich­stag and Bran­den­burg Gate slip by, he reflects on how “con­crete, barbed wire and gun tur­rets had been replaced by a cur­ry­wurst stand, shoe stores, and oth­er unre­mark­able trap­pings of the every­day. Every­thing looked so nor­mal, as if peo­ple had nev­er argued let alone fought here. The grave­yard of com­mu­nism and fas­cism looked beau­ti­ful with its flow­ers and its riv­er in the sunshine.”

But Cal – named for his safe, priv­i­leged, native Cal­i­for­nia – was frus­trat­ed. “The banal­i­ty of today’s pros­per­i­ty be damned,” he thought. “‘Orson Welles was right about the cuck­oo clocks.’ On this day, Cal was not inter­est­ed in sun­shine, flow­ers and rivers. He want­ed shad­ows, smoke and bas­tards. He want­ed danger.”

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May 8 – Celebrating the End of World War II as a German

By Kai-Arne Zimny

75 years ago, the world sighed in relief. After six grue­some years and over 70 mil­lion lost lives, World War II was final­ly over. May 8, 1945, marked both the end of a ruth­less regime and the war in Europe. The Allied Forces had brought the Ger­man Wehrma­cht to its knees, and at 11:01 p.m., the war in Europe was offi­cial­ly over. In the U.S. and the UK, the day is cel­e­brat­ed as “Vic­to­ry in Europe Day,” and for decades, May 8 (and in some cas­es May 9) has been a hol­i­day in var­i­ous Euro­pean coun­tries – but not in Ger­many. How­ev­er, for its 75th anniver­sary, the Day of Lib­er­a­tion has been declared a one-time hol­i­day in Berlin.

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