We are one

“Thank you, Gorbi [Gorbatshov]” on the Berlin Wall, today 25 years ago

For as long as I can remember, seeing footage from when the Berlin Wall fell has given me goosebumps. I was born in the West, I had no family in the East, I grew up in a reunited Germany and I have never suffered from the divide. Still, there is something extremely grand about the Ninth of November (Fall of the Wall) and the Third of October (Formal Reunification) for me. As a German and as a historian.

My mother and grandparents have instilled an appreciation in me for being able to move between East and West freely. “It was absolutely unbelievable”, I remember them telling me. “We couldn’t imagine that it was really true”. And I, who has the blessing of being born late, got to travel to Dresden however and whenever I wanted to, I got to make several wonderful friends from the “East” without even thinking of that they were from somewhere that used to be a different country. We would not know each other if that Wall was still up.

This sign was installed after the German separation at the Main Square in Bremen and it still there today, stating “Remember the brethren bearing the fate of our separation!”

That’s why I celebrate the Third of October. Every year since, like what, ten years. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Reunification of Germany. It is all over the media, the TV channels have special shows, the magazines feature special reports, Frankfurt hosts a great central celebration. My friend Kristin, born and raised in the East, and I, born and raised in the West, also host a celebration. A grand unity party with our friends from all parts of Germany. Because we can – because we are the first generation of reunited Germans.

We are one! Since 25 years, hooray!

War Alert and Orientation

No war plane, I found a paper clip plane, yay!

No war plane, I found a paper clip plane, yay!

This morning, the internet died at work. On one hand, you would think you really need internet to work but on the other hand, I realized how much more effective I felt not attending to any emails or as if hypnotized observe the registrations coming in for our big event. Two weeks after the invitation went out, it is almost sold out which is wonderful but at the same time horrifying because I soon will have to tell important people, “Sorry, we’re fully booked”. Life punishes those who come too late, basically, the famous words that Gorbatshov uttered almost three decades years ago. Today is an important day for the history-nerd that I am because it was today 26 years ago that the West German Foreign Minister Genscher stepped onto the balcony of the West German ambassy in Prague where thousands of East Germans had sought refuge and camped for weeks, hoping to be allowed to travel to the West. On the 30th of September almost every year, the radio plays the snippet where says, “My dear fellow Germans, we have come here today to tell you that you are free to leave…” – then his voice fades away in the massive enthusiastic cries from the people. I am touched every year again. But enough of the history nerd stuff!

Yesterday, I noticed that my knowledge of Dizzel and my orientation has indeed gotten better. I had an appointment at Duisburger Straße and my phone died. My phone is my guide, I stare at the blue dot, hoping I am moving in the right direction. And then it died! I was left to my own brain and I managed at the first try to find the street, I was rather impressed with myself. I also met two people I know while strolling on Duisburger Straße – a clear sign of integration, right?

Also this morning, while I was pre-typing emails I would be able to send later, an unknown, alarming sound echoed outside our windows. My co-workers just said matter-of-factly, “That’s the war alert.” Eh, okay, the war alert? In Sweden, they have test war alerts at 3 pm every first Monday of a quarter and they call that “the hoarse Fredrik”. In Germany, I cannot remember ever having heard a war alert before. I am as lucky as that.