Berlin Wall

Two soldiers, one from West Germany, the other from East Germany, in the wall’s early days. Library of Congress photo. Special thanks to Public Domain Images Online.

I remember where I was when I learned the Berlin Wall had fallen. It was fall of 1989, evening. I remember the just faded light, my one-bedroom apartment in Dunkirk, Indiana, where I had recently started a new job. On the TV, jubilant Germans were cheering on top of the graffiti covered wall against the dark sky.

I had thought the day would never come. Literally. I was born in the late 1960s, during the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall had been existed all my life. I expected it to always exist, just like the Soviet Union and its threat of nuclear annihilation.

Those of you age 25 and younger have no memory of two Germanys, let alone the wall that had come to symbolize communist tyranny.

The wall was built on August 13, 1951, to keep the East Germans from fleeing to the West and to freedom. Such phrases like the one I just typed seem like hyperbole. Not in this case. Its status as an icon of the Cold War and an object of loathing is justified.

To learn more, check out the NPR site, whose stories include an interview with a poet who grew up in East Berlin and photos of from the Stasi (secret police) archive. This week, PBS showed an informative program about the wall and its impact.