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October 2007 - Nr. 10


The Editor
Freiheit zur Einheit
Freedom to Unity
Raising of the German Flag
Paul Bernhard Berghorn
Dan's Satire
Frankfurt Celebrates Toronto
Down On The Town
KW & Beyond
German-Canadian Citizenship Law
The Sale of Depression
New Kasseler Store
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Dance Classes for Children
A Spanish Fantasia
Newfoundland's Duo Concertante
November Listings
The Whirling Dervishes
Renewable is Doable

When Freedom Does Not Lead To Unity

 An article by an eyewitness: Marianne Schmidt
translated by Rolf Rentmeister

In this article Marianne sometimes narrates as if in present time, it is left as in the original - the translator

Thoughts about the Day of German Unity

Marianne SchmidtI can still recall very well when the Wall was erected in Berlin on August 13, 1961. I resided at the time in Frankfurt, Germany, and curiously we found out about it on the evening before through the radio station at AFN. It was rather a suspicion that became a certainty the next morning, because the Western Allies had been informed by trusted sources about a plan to cordon off of West-Berlin. However, they did not know when that would occur.

Thus in the night of August 12 to August 13, 1961, the folks’ police and the national folks’ army (police and army of the GDR) started to build the protective antifascists wall on orders of the SED leadership. People by the hundreds tried still to flee to the freedom of the West but many did not make it. In addition the access to the S- and U-Bahn (Berlin’s public rail services, above and below ground) in the eastern part of the city was blocked. West-Berlin’s S- and U-Bahn was not allowed to stop at East-Berlin’s railway stations and had to continue through until they re-entered the West. The upshot – what had not been accomplished with the Blockade of Berlin…succeeded with the erection of the Wall of Berlin.

Three days later, August 16, 1961, the than active mayor of Berlin Willy Brandt and 3 million West-Berliners protested the erection of the Wall in front of Schöneberg’s city hall. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer visited the cordoned-off Berlin only 2 weeks later.

A difficult time began for the West-Berliners. No matter into which direction they drove by car after 25 minutes they faced the wall and could not get any further. To drive to West Germany they had to pass through a check point with valid identity cards. Waiting for hours on the border made travelling difficult, the transit route became a nightmare for everyone.

This nightmare would last another 28 years and hundreds of dead fleeing the Republic plastered the dividing wall. What had been given as a reason for the erection of the Wall, migration to the West, infiltration, espionage, smuggling, especially the total sell-out was directed more against the citizens of the GDR (German Democratic Republic), it became after 3 decades a power struggle between the state and the citizens of the GDR. Mass rallies were held for weeks in a fight for freedom to travel, embassies in several Eastern European cities like Warsaw and Prague were besieged. The pressure of the citizens of the GDR grew stronger and stronger. And just a single slip of the tongue by Günter Schabowski, a member of the SED Politburo, during the reading of the new travel regulations for leaving the country at a press conference, televised on the evening of November 9 (1989), makes the dream of freedom become a reality for all citizens of the GDR.

"Private cross-border travels can be requested without conditions – (like) reasons for travel and family relationships. Permissions will be given immediately. Effective immediately…was Schabowski’s answer to a journalist’s question "when will this go into effect?". With this short reply the Wall tumbled on November 9th (1989) at 18:57 hours (6.57 pm).

From that instance the pressure of the citizens of East-Berlin mounted to such a degree that at 23:30 hours (11.30 pm.) Lieutenant Colonel Jäger opens the border crossing on Bornholmer Straße (Bornholmer Street) in the district of Wedding.

Within the same hour East and West lie in each other’s arms, cry for happiness and cannot fathom the unfathomable. The city stands on its head and I, too, rush to Bornholmer Street, I join the celebration and witness terrible tragedies. A 17 year old collapses in the arms of his hurriedly arriving Western uncle, can only scream and cry because he left his identity card at home on the refrigerator in his believe without it he can not precede any further. But return he did not want under any circumstances, "never ever back to the GDR", he screamed again and again. I am totally astounded how well we are organized …buses stand ready to take people into the city, representatives of law and order ask for citizens of the GDR whom they want to bring to transit camps so they have a roof over their head. The pubs are in the area are full and everyone cheers…cars honk their horns, champagne flows and there is no end to the celebrations. For days! The Kurfürstendamm (Berlin’s promenade) overflows, the (U-Bahn) subway drives in 1 minute intervals and tickets are not needed during these days. Checking would be impossible.

Suddenly it comes to me what this means to us in the western part of Berlin. We can finally travel without a border, no wall stops us after 25 minutes, continuing to travel without passport control and fear of being denied passage. What a feeling.

My work at radio and television stations turns into a 24 hour job. I get hardly any sleep anymore and travel constantly without stops during those years, and wonderful friendships develop in the eastern part of the country.

The country blossomed and yet unemployment rose. What kind of dangerous statement was made by Chancellor Helmut Kohl: "nobody shall fare worse". Many companies have to close in the East, the people get more and more dissatisfied. The security they were used to the West cannot give. The affordable bread and roll for 5 pennies at GDR’s time has become an expensive food item today. The poverty level of the Germans climbs rapidly…was this how one had imagined the golden West? Many dreams and wishes did not come true. Had the Banana (Federal) Republic been overrated? Did the people of the GDR really believe it possible to be able to buy any merchandise on display? What in 1989 was the wish for freedom turns today into the goal for social justice. But justice…does it still exist in this world??? Wasn’t the East turned into beautiful blossoming landscapes? Look at Mecklenburg Vorpommern, the isle of Rügen shines brightly white. Dresden has his Frauenkirche (famous church of Dresden) restored, and what about the Gedächtniskirche (church of remembrance) in Berlin??? It crumbles silently away, traditional stores have to close on Kurfürstendamm, theatres get no more support.

Can freedom lead thus to unity? I hope we can find the way to unity together. Yet sometimes I believe this is more difficult than tearing down the wall. None of the solemnly pledged wonderful friendships exist anymore. I am all but forgotten.

Yet I believe in the goodness of man and hope is a beautiful word.

Marianne Schmidt


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