Thursday, August 11, 2011


What do I write about?  I've been trying to answer that question for a number of days now.

Yesterday I found an article in one of our local newspapers that focused on the Berlin Wall. Apparently it has become quite a draw for tourism - so much so that  the German/Berlin government is spending a considerable amount of money restoring/rebuilding a section of the wall that was broken open in November of 1989 and then quickly dismantled (except for a small section retained as a memorial).

The article also informed readers that the city of Berlin will be marking the 50th anniversary of the building of the wall which went up the night of August 12-13 in 1961.

I found myself reflecting on many things I have read and seen about the Berlin Wall, my two experiences of being at the Berlin Wall and crossing from West Berlin to East Berlin and back again. I also remembered stories of other divided cities and countries, and thought about walls that continue to go up to this day. It still has my mind skipping from one memory/thought to another.

I went on the Internet to see what I could find on the Berlin Wall and on another city that had been divided for almost 20 years, Jerusalem. There's a lot of information to be found! As an aside, I found it interesting to note that one of the top 10 search engine results for the Berlin Wall was an article in an English language newspaper in Pakistan. It piqued my curiosity and I bounced around that website for a while before bookmarking it for future exploration.

Back to the Berlin Wall.

The article I read has spurred me to look back on my memories of stories, books and movies about Berlin and the Wall that I have heard, read, and seen over the past 40+ (maybe even close to 50) years. I've been to Berlin twice, 3 days in 1974 and another 3 days in 1984 and memories of those visits are flashing through my head.

I don't recall when I first became aware of the existence of the City of Berlin, or that it was a divided city in a conquered, divided country where people in one part of the country and city were prevented from traveling to the other by barbed wire, brick walls, mined fields, armed guards with orders to shoot to kill, dogs and Watch Towers. I don't remember when I understood the realities of what became known as the Cold War, the conflict between two opposing ideologies and the politics, fears and ambitions that fueled and sustained this volatile and dangerous time. I'm still learning about these things.

So why am I caught up in this history? What is the significance?

These events have touched me personally, they are part of my family history and my cultural background. Even today I have relatives in Germany whose lives continue to be affected by this history in one way or another.

But it's more than that. I look at the news today and I still see Walls; divided countries, divided peoples, divided faiths, divided families and more. The Israelis are building a massive wall for 'protection'. In recent weeks we saw one young man with a twisted mind kill many innocent young people because in his opinion, his country had failed to keep out people of a different race and religion. How many of us put up walls to keep a distance from people, socioeconomic realities, ideologies, lifestyles, and behaviours that we fear, don't understand, or disagree with and want no part of?

So many memories, so many thoughts, so many issues. I'm going to delve into these for a while.

1 comment:

  1. Great topic choice. This reminds me a bit of Joe from Winnipeg - starting from seemingly one topic and then narrowing it down to a completely differen point. I like it.

    Re: Walls... It is interesting. It is a difficult job to remind myself that 'something there is that does not love a wall.'