Living History: Die Mauer (The Wall)

For twenty-eight years the Berlin Wall divided the Western side of the city from the East. Twenty-five years ago today the wall came down. Today I’m remembering the turbulent days in November of 1989, the fall of the Wall, and Germany’s reunification.

Berlin Wall

For 41 years the divided city, situated inside East Germany (Deutsche Demokratishe Republik), was an island. There were only three ways in and out – train, auto corridor, or commercial airline. The four power agreement following WWII (officially the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany) divided air traffic to and from the city between Air France, British Airways, Pan Am and Aeroflot. For 10 years I flew passengers in and out of Tegel Airport, first on the 727 and later on the 737. I left the city in 1986 but returned on October 3, 1990 to celebrate the reunification of the two Germanys.

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It was astonishingly emotional on October 3, 1990 to walk freely through the Brandenburg Gate after having lived inside the wall for so long. Everyone was in tears. Two days later Abby and I put our bikes on the U-Bahn (one of two Berlin subways) and rode to the end of the line near the Polish border. We rode back to West Berlin through roughly cobbled streets and as the day stretched toward sundown single bare bulbs dangling from drooping wires cast a pale yellow light in small circles on the street corners. It was eerily like scenes from The Third Man.

Today Berlin is the most exciting city in Europe with a huge influx of young people, a thriving art and music scene, and a mixture of renovated pre-WWII landmarks side by side with state of the art contemporary architecture. It is a thoroughly modern city and once again the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. This sign is the first thing M and I saw as we rode our bikes through the Brandenburg Gate in 2008. Seattle’s finest in the heart of the Old World.


In May of this year (2014) we visited friends in Southern Germany. On a tour of his office building our host proudly showed us two pieces of The Wall that he purchased and placed in the courtyard of the company’s headquarters as a reminder of obstacles overcome and the transition to a new Germany.

Bernd's Wall

Returning to Berlin for the Reunification was a memorable and emotional benchmark in my adult life. I’m confident that I will never be part of a public demonstration of unity and happiness anything like it again. I was privileged to have lived there for 10 years and to have lived to see it reunited successfully.

Wall Badge

Happy Anniversary – Berlin

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