Celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall

Wallstories contemporary danceIt seems hard to believe that a mere 20 years ago, a physical barrier ran through Berlin, Germany, dividing the city’s residents in two. The Berlin Wall symbolized the Cold War, serving as an incessant reminder to East and West Berliners of their turbulent past, which only bled into their present isolation.

Until November 9, 1989, when the world watched as Berliners traveled freely, harmoniously from the east side of the Germany to the west, from the west side of Germany to the east. No violence. No fear. Just freedom.

Websites
To celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall, we’ve compiled a list of web sites below for your enjoyment, enlightenment, and education.

  1. German Missions in the United States – “The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago marked the beginning of a new era in history. It was the end of the Cold War, the beginning of a fully united Europe, and proof that peaceful change is possible, even in the moments when it seems most unlikely.”
  2. Making the History of 1989, from the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) located at George Mason University, this web site offers countless resources on the Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. The following excerpts are taken from the web site.
    • Introductory Essay – Sets the scene for the events of 1989 and explains their significance in world history.
    • Primary Resources – Over 300 primary resources, including government documents, images, videos, and artifacts with introductory notes.
    • Scholar Interviews – Four scholars focus on the history and events surrounding 1989 through primary sources.
    • Teaching Modules – Provide historical context, strategies, and resources for teaching the history of 1989 with primary sources.
    • Case Studies – Teaching case studies provide historical context and strategies for teaching the history of 1989 with primary sources.
  3. Newseum – The Berlin Wall
    • The Newseum online forum explores the role of news during the era of the Berlin Wall. Start by exploring Two Sides, One Story, which juxtaposes the spread of news in the highly controlled portion of East Germany as opposed to that in West Germany, where the news spread freely and openly.
    • The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall takes you through an interactive timeline that serves as a great resource for students, asking them to become Berliners. For instance, the site suggests the following activity: “Pretend you are a resident of either east or west Berlin. Draft a letter that you hope will make it to the other side of the wall. Address the letter to a family member or close friend. Or write an article that you would want delivered to the people on the other side. What do you want to say?
    • Then explore Stalin’s manipulation of photographs for political and social gain in The Commissar Vanishes.
    • The web site concludes with Gene Mater’s essay, “The German Media and its Role in History over the Last Century.”
  4. National Archives and Records Administration – On June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy traveled to Berlin and gave a moving speech to Berliners, commending them on their fight for freedom.

Photographs
Take a historic journey along the Berlin Wall via photographs, from its original construction through today:

Videos

  • Wallstories – Choreographed by Nejla Yatkin, Wallstories is a part of The Berlin Wall Project, a contemporary dance event that focuses on stories and memories, on the emotional impact of the Wall. “I think through dance and movement,” Yatkin explains, “emotions convey a stronger message and the political comes through. It gets under your skin more than the historical narrative because human emotions are universal, and people can connect to it even if they haven’t lived through the historical.”
  • Berlin Wall: 20 Years On – A mini series that features five short films on the evolution of the Berlin Wall, historically and geographically.
  • From the fall of the Berlin Wall to Germany Unity – Produced by Deutsche Welle in Cooperation with the German Information Center, this video clip relives the events leading up to both the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 and German reunification on October 3, 1990.
  • The Wall – A documentary detailing life in Berlin in 1962, amidst an era of terror from the omniscient Berlin Wall.

Upcoming Events
Washington, DC

  • German Historical Institute
    Nov. 5 – Lecture by German writer Katrin Askan: "On Shoelaces, Fishing Manuals, and the Fear of Misspeaking"

    Nov. 12 – 23rd Annual Lecture of the GHI, by Professor Donna Harsch: "Footnote or Footprint? The German Democratic Republic in Modern History"

    Dec. 03 – Lecture by Professor Daniel Hough: "Was it really meant to be this way?: Unification and the Remaking of German Party Politics"

Los Angeles, CA

  • The Wall Project
  • Date: Nov. 8, 2009
    Location: The Wende Museum
    Tickets: $250
    Call 310.216.1600, ext. 305 for more details

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