Time flies! It has now been 28 years since the Berlin Wall opened, changing German and European history forever. That means that a generation of Germans has not lived in a divided Germany.
I have always been a lover of history until it occurred to me that I was living history. After all, the Cold War had shaped life in our village (I grew up next to the largest ammunition depot in the world) as well as my employment because I worked on a U.S. air base for many years.
During the early 1980s I took several trips to West Berlin and East Germany. They were very educational and satisfied my curiosity. How could I ever forget the fortified borders and the uneasy feeling of being watched around the clock? Would I get in trouble for photographing an empty shop window? How could I spend my pocket money when there was nothing worthwhile to buy, but I was not allowed to take it back home?
Fast forward to 1989, the most eventful year in my life. November 1989 was an especially busy time for me. I had just gotten married and was clearing out my bachelor apartment while also searching for a larger apartment. The sudden opening of the Berlin Wall therefore caught me by surprise.
My first reaction was disbelief, followed by unease. The 1980s had seen lots of tension and economic insecurity. East Germany, on the other hand, had enjoyed full employment. How could all those people be absorbed into the West German economy? It turned out that my fears were not unfounded. But first there was euphoria. Friends and families could visit each other after all those years. And East Germans were finally able to travel abroad.
I have never returned to Berlin after the fall of the wall. I doubt that I would recognize it anymore.
Image: SSgt F. Lee Corkran, DoD photo, USA