Back to previous post: “Radical Presentism”

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Rouge Queen

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

November 9, 2009

It was twenty years ago today
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:08 PM * 110 comments

It’s evening now, here in Europe, so we’re really two decades from that night. I can’t watch even the announcement without crying. I never have, not since the first time I saw it live, and I don’t know if I ever will. I’m not sure I want to; when I can watch sundered families be reunited with dry eyes I think I’ve lost some part of my humanity.

The nuances of the fall of the Berlin Wall are being debated all over. Anniversaries are good times for awkward questions and complex analyses. Were the East Germans fairly treated in reunification? Has the victory of free-market capitalism been everything it promised, all things considered? How many half-truths and simplifications have buried the ambiguous complexity of that time?

I have nothing useful to add to the discussion, except that I live in a Europe that could not have existed with the Wall intact, and I think it’s a good place. I call it a night’s work well done.

I think I’ll have a drink. It’s a suitable matter for a toast. Anyone with me?

Comments on It was twenty years ago today:
#1 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 02:44 PM:

A toast from Iceland.
Sometime in the next year I will have lived more than half my life in a world without the Wall. It seemed unconceivable as a teenager. I think, no matter the nuances, that I live in a better Europe.

#2 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 02:47 PM:

I've nothing to toast with at present, but I'll raise a spiritual toast with you.

I'm just barely old enough to remember; I have vague memories of watching the Wall come down, but extremely vivid memories of the existence of West and East Germany.

Talk of the Nation is at present doing a huge retrospective show about it, interviewing everyone they can get a hold of. Very interesting.

#3 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 02:50 PM:

I remember sitting in front of the goggle-box in near-disbelief. That wall was the physical manifestation of the Cold War to me, and watching those wild celebrations was stunning.

#4 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 02:51 PM:

Yes. Chocolate soymilk, here.
Don't have much to add that really fits in. I hope that your Europe continues to thrive, even if over here in the US it all goes down the tubes.
I remember hearing about it [don't have a tv.] I remember thinking,as the new decade began, "now we can have peace, now I can go to sleep w/o nagging worry that I might be vaporized by someone who never even knew me."
Now, of course, I wonder. But I can't ever help but be glad when hearing that people who want to be together, can be together.

#5 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 02:57 PM:

Here in Finland, I'll raise my coffee cup to that.

I remember it happening when I was 10, almost 11, knowing it was a Big Damn Deal although I wasn't entirely sure why--or maybe time's just rubbe all the detail off of my memories. Even so, I remember that seeing images of the graffiti-stained wall coming down bit by bit gave me an overwhelming, choked up feeling.

#6 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 02:58 PM:

I remember the feeling of hope for the world then, and can't even imagine feeling that way now.

#7 ::: Janice ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 02:58 PM:

Every time the anniversary comes around, I think of Liv, one of the foreign exchange students at my podunk suburban high school in southwestern PA. Liv was from West Berlin--of all the years to go abroad, she picked 1989, and had to see it all transpire on American TV, and via phone calls to her family back home.

#8 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:00 PM:

I'll drink to that. May walls of that ilk continue to fall, when the powers that built them least expect it.

#9 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:22 PM:

Sgt. Pepper told the band to play?

All kidding aside, I remember it. I was a tween at the time, but I remember geography classes covering East and West Germany, and East and West Berlin, which always seemed frankly bizarre to me. "Wait... there's a little island of East Germany in the middle of West Germany? Um, okay." It was a while before I could wrap my mind around why the East Berliners didn't just up and leave.

Mostly, what I remember about the time was how sudden it all seemed. One day there was East and West Berlin, and Checkpoint Charlie (which I used to think was a person) and everything, and then, all of a sudden, it's gone, and there are all these families running to each other and crying. It was tremendously powerful, and I knew it was one of those momentous events that would turn up on a list of "Ten Most Important Events of the Twentieth Century", even if I was too young to really appreciate the massive, massive political upheaval that had just been wrought.

We kids had always been told that there was this Cold War on, and it had lasted for a while and was probably going to last for a while... and then, "Hey, the war's over! We win!" Us kids: "Hooray! World peace!" The grownups: "Um, actually..."

I probably should have bought one of those ubiquitous Chunks O' Wall to commemorate the occasion, but I was eleven and short of pocket money. Oh well.

#10 ::: The AstroDyke ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:23 PM:

Here here. A toast of morning California coffee. Because every wall will sometime fall.

#11 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:24 PM:

Hear, hear!

#12 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:28 PM:

*joins the toast*

I remember it happening. My mom was a German teacher then and used to take a group of students to visit our partner school in Germany each year, and I think 1989 was the same year I had gotten to go there myself. With all these family and personal connections to Germany I noticed the event more than I would have otherwise.

The next time Mom came home from a trip to Germany we all sat in the living room while she passed around things she had brought home from the trip and told us about them. As the chip of the Wall came to me she was talking about some biscuits. I misunderstood what was being handed to me and almost bit the chunk of masonry thinking it was a very dry biscuit!

#13 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:30 PM:

Whoops, I forgot the toast part.

To walls. May they fall, and people on either side rush towards each other in joy, and dance in the streets.

#14 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:31 PM:

I remember my parents being disappointed at my and my brother's reactions. We were teenagers, but they'd been teenagers when the wall went up. They kept saying, "Don't you realize how big this is? How important?" And we kept saying, "Yeah, we know, it's really big. It's cool, we get it." And they kept saying, "But don't you understand?!?"

It's like we understood, we got it, but we didn't have this visceral emotional punch like my parents did. They weren't quite able to express that emotion, but they wanted badly to share it.

#15 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:40 PM:


I've always thought of this as one of the "do you remember where you were when..." moments of history. Only a happy one.

And I wonder if US soldiers would have the same grace and wisdom, to ignore orders for the sake of human decency, that the East German soldiers had that night. My family stayed up half the night, watching, hopeful, but still afraid that a moment's panic by some border guard could turn the whole thing into a bloodbath.

And then, a few weeks later, there was a postcard. From relatives who had never before dared send a letter to the US, who now could write without even trying to hide behind a sealed envelope.

#16 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:47 PM:

I'm with you. I remember watching it on the news, with my parents, not quite believing, not quite daring to believe that the armed forces wouldn't step in.

Yes, I shed a tear at the memory. And I'll lift a glass and drink to hope.

I have a chunk of the wall as well, that I was given. At least, that's what I was told, but I've heard it's a bit like Barrayaran royal wedding groats - the total would add up to more than the full wall.

#17 ::: Colin ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:47 PM:

I was born in East Germany but my father was Australian so when the government finally allowed my parents to marry (ca. 1.5 years after they applied for a marriage liscence) they could up and leave. That was 1988 (I was only 10 weeks old) and my parents heard about the wall on the radio while camping on some beautiful tropical island.

It's crazy how the world turns.


#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:48 PM:

It was an extraordinary moment, that's for sure. Now there are people who've reached adulthood for whom it's as much history as the Roman Empire or the fall of Napoleon.

#19 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:53 PM:

*tapping the monitor with a water bottle in celebratory imitation of a toast*

Yes. What I remember most about that night was the feeling of "say WHAT? No. That can't be happening. It isn't possible."

I just barely remember the wall being built. When it finally came down, it seemed as though it had always been there and always would be. And then it--wasn't.

#20 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:54 PM:

In November of 1989 I was living in Canada. Learning of the wall coming down was far nicer than the invasion of Grenada, and I still shed a tear when I look at the photos of the people climbing the wall. Heck, even thinking of those photos is enough to start things going. I need more tea.

(A toast! To walls falling!)

#21 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:56 PM:

Some Bernstein and Beethoven to go with the drinks?

#22 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 03:59 PM:

I remember being caught up in a rolling wave of euphoria as history washed across Europe and the Soviet empire crumbled in the (two?) years leading up to the fall of the wall. I lost that giddy sense after the events in Tiananmen Square five months before.

Of the two events, I think Tiananmen colours my outlook more. I actually mis-remembered the sequence, thinking that Tiananmen was after Berlin. Until Tiananmen, it seemed like all the people had to do was assert their collective desire. Afterward, nothing seemed so certain, and apparently the fall of the wall didn't make me more sanguine.

#23 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:04 PM:

We are at the turning point from memory into history.

I have vivid memories of crossing the German frontiers - the long train journey from the Hook of Holland to Warsaw which went from Holland into West Germany, from West Germany into East Germany, from East Germany into West Berlin, from West Berlin into East Berlin and finally from East Germany into Poland - with all those frontier crossings through the night, making sleep impossible instead of just unlikely. And on other journeys, following the Transitstrasse - the designated roads from West Germany to West Berlin or to Poland from which no deviation was permitted, little traffic was visible, and stretches were still the original cobbles.

I am profoundly glad that people not many years younger than me cannot share those memories - or many more which are more dehumanising and sometimes more terrifying.

#24 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:06 PM:

Amped up version of what I just posted on a gaming board:

What an astonishing year that was! I got a traveling job in 1989, flying all over the country to do trade shows and visit appliance stores to train salespeople.

Layer on top of that the "WHAT happened?" aspect of the news and you've got a year that seemed a lot longer than 365 days. (During my first trade show, in Chicago, the Ayatollah Khomeini died.)

I used to hang with wargamers and such who lived in this cold war thought bubble. There was this whole end-times scenario worked out involving Soviet tanks rolling into Germany and nukes flying. I had long already started to roll my eyes at this stuff; 1989 just totally tore apart that paradigm. Seeing how the old wargamers took it was kind of sad and funny.

It didn't really begin with the wall going down. As I recall, Poland's regime was the first to effectively give it up. Welesa's tireless enough-of-this-BS labor organizing just couldn't be countered.

Then boom, boom, boom . . . all those tired Eastern Bloc bureaucratic farts, up against VCRs, rock music, and modems, just giving it up. Then the wall, and then, just before the end of the year, Romania. I remember joking with friends at New Year's that at the rate the world was moving it wouldn't surprise me if the Hyperdrive was announced before midnight.

#25 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:20 PM:

I was living with Mark then, having married him seven months earlier, and someone -- Farber? -- called told us to turn on our television, which until then had been serving as my footrest under the kitchen table. I remember being dumbfounded, and hyperventilating, because it couldn't be true. But it was, and it is.

A toast to hope, and progress.

#26 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:30 PM:

My daughter was born a few months earlier, during the Tienammen Square protests and massacre, and the fall of the Berlin Wall was a ray ofafter all in bringing another life into the world. I remember writing in her baby book that the Berlin Wall went up the year I was born and came down the year she was born, and I hoped this would be a sign of things to come.

#27 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:34 PM:

What about Yugoslavia? It was about that time that we had to start calling it "The Former Yugoslavia," and then...

#28 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:39 PM:

Okay, part of the middle of my post got eaten by the Things that Live in the Ether:

My daughter was born a few months earlier, during the Tienammen Square protests and massacre, and the fall of the Berlin Wall was a ray of hope, that perhaps I hadn't made a mistake after all in bringing another life into the world. I remember writing in her baby book that the Berlin Wall went up the year I was born and came down the year she was born, and I hoped this would be a sign of things to come.

#29 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:42 PM:

Erik Nelson @27:

Yugoslavia melted down in 1991. The first substantial violence was in August of 1990, but the wars themselves are generally dated from '91.

I remember this because I was planning on taking the train round Europe in the summer of 1991, and my intended route took me north from Greece. I didn't get that far, due to an incident with an exploding bottle of stove fuel in close proximity to my legs before I left Spain. But even before that, it was beginning to look Very Unwise to follow my planned route.

#30 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:47 PM:

I remember seeing it on TV when I was 9 years old. In the months and weeks before that there were reports about the protests and demonstrations and I remember asking my parents: "is that really happening or is it a movie?" You see, the Germany I saw in those protests was so unlike the one I was living in, I didn't quite understand it was real. And just when I'd wrapped my young mind around the fact that there were actually two very different Germanies, there suddenly weren't anymore.

I was too young to fully understand, but I did understand that everyone was very, very happy, and so I was content to be happy with them.

A toast to the reunification, Aufbau Ost and Solidarpakt be damned.

And just to be a little mean, here's the cover of the Titanic (Germany's only satire magazine, kinda like The Onion but really, really mean) (and awesome) from around that time:

My first banana!

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:51 PM:

Strangely, I have no real memory of the event itself, only of the pictures of it later. And, of course, a huge concert on what had been the you're-automatically-shot-if-you-set-foot-here turf.

I remember looking over the Wall from West to East Berlin in 1976, and seeing the tank barriers. These were so the DDR government could maintain the fiction that West Germany was about to slide into Nazism again at any moment, and so they needed the "anti-fascistic protection barrier," the official name for the Wall on the Eastern side.

I wish I still had my old passport, which had a genuine Transitvisum stamp in it for going from West Germany to West Berlin, but I lost that years and years ago.

My toast: To the reunification of things that never should have been separated, and the destruction of all the bad walls, whether made of concrete or just fear and prejudice.

#32 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:55 PM:

Stefan @ #24, "Soviet tanks rolling into Germany"

Ah, the Fulda Gap scenario.

#33 ::: meteorplum ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:58 PM:

I toast you all with a glass of "birne-most" with spritzer (had to wait until my last driving chore was done).

It's unclear if the people on the west side of the Wall understood what would actually happen when those on the east side could come over. One wonders if there is nimby-ism in the spreading of Democracy.

I drink a second toast to walls that *should* fall, and I remember my father, who left mainland China in early '49, just ahead of the Dynasty of the Funny Hats.

#34 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 04:59 PM:

*Toasting with a good lager*

I remember the surreality of the event: "It's going away??!"

And then visiting Berlin in 2005, finding what a wonderful city it was, and saying, "There used to be a WALL through here?!!"

#35 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 05:00 PM:

J├Ągermeister I think, the medicinal aspects seem fitting.

A toast to all those who had the grace to bow to the inevitable and let what was the symbol of an intractable divide become meaningless overnight. May all the walls that divide us fall so easily, for we are more alike than we are different, we are one human race.

Prost! Zum Wohl der ganzen Welt.

#36 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 05:17 PM:

I had grown up with the divide between the worlds: one free and building and full of hope (this was the 1980s, you understand, not the 1970s or the 1960s -- Reagan not Carter or Nixon or Johnson), and the other gray and dim and shadowed (not quite the deep terror of the 1950s or the false exuberance of the early 1960s, Brezhnev rather than Khrushchev or Stalin), but it still seemed an eternal thing, an iron wall dividing humanity far across the ages.

And then I was sitting in the lounge at my dorm at grad school in Notre Dame, staring with unbelieving joy at the live images of thousands of East Berliners dancing on the Wall.





And just like that, the shadow fell away. And I am still joyful just remembering.

I called one of my college professors (a German immigrant who had been head of the history department I majored in) and talked for a while about it. I don't remember now what we said, and I don't think the words mattered much; it was the joy that needed to be shared.

#37 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 05:23 PM:

When I was 12, my teacher had a bit of a thing for getting us to memorise stuff by rote. (She foisted exactly one poem on us that way, Browning's Home Thoughts From Abroad, and I still loathe it.) One more useful thing she made us memorise was the map of Europe, or rather a chant of the then countries of Europe that enabled us to label the map as we went from the Atlantic to the borders of Asia and then back and around and up and across:

Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, West Germany, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Yugoslavia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark.

A neat little Hamiltonian path around Europe. It's actually a very useful memory-jogger; or rather, it was until the borders started to change. (I'm distracted by how complicated the map of Eastern Europe now is: when I were a lad, the Soviet Union was all one colour, usually pale green for some obscure reason).

And don't get me started on how they've mucked around with the UK counties since the 70s...

#38 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 05:24 PM:

Hear, hear.

I had a small piece of the wall sitting on my desk for years. Absolutely one of the most remarkable events of our time.

#39 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 05:27 PM:

Stefan, #24: Sudden epiphany -- what you describe there, the way the old Cold War empire people must have felt, is probably very similar to the way the wingnuts feel right now. History is just rolling over them, and they can't fight it. That would certainly explain a lot.

#40 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 05:45 PM:

I vaguely remember the wall coming down on the news when I was little. I didn't understand it at all, of course, but it was still Big Stuff. I also remember, a few years after that, our school hadn't sprung for the new French textbooks yet, so there were still references to East and West Germany.

To a more open and free world.


#41 ::: truth is life ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 05:53 PM:

I was three months old when the Wall fell, so I am one of the ones for which the Cold War is a historical artifact, no more than words on paper. The major political incident of my life was 9/11, which divided rather than united. Nevertheless, to freedom-seekers everywhere; may they have the wisdom to recognize and reject extremism within themselves, and the power to gain their object.

#42 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 06:01 PM:

I wish I had something culturally appropriate to drink but it will have to be Spanish red wine. Still, a toast.

My mother is German, my father is from the US, he was stationed in Mannheim during Vietnam where he met my mother. The marriage didn't last long. My mother stayed in California but I spent a fair amount of my childhood with my grandparents in Germany.

I grew up with stories of the Wall: my grandmother would tell me about how horrific it was, would ask me to imagine how I would feel if I woke up one morning and found Mannheim split in half, unable to see my uncle and cousins because they were on the other side of a terrific wall of concrete.

I remember being 12 in Southern California, and trying to explain to my best friend's dad that my country was split in half, broken. That the US forces were not peace-keeping, they were occupying. He seemed genuinely confused that I could see things that way. I was frustrated and upset that grown-ups didn't seem to understand - didn't seem to care! - that there were children who couldn't see their cousins because someone built a wall.

In 1989 I turned 21 and moved back to Germany. Towards the end of the year, I planned a two-week holiday with my step-sister, we were going to travel around Southern Europe by train. The night before we left, the wall came tumbling down. I was in tears. I wanted to reorganise our trip, go to Berlin instead, but I realised that most of the nation would have the same idea and so we decided to continue on with our planned trip. It was my step-sister's first trip outside of the Orange Curtain, as she called California's Orange County, and I was worried about spoiling her once-in-a-lifetime trip to see Europe.

I regret that decision now.

When I got back, I found my friends complaining about the East Germans, about the influx, about the money. I was stunned to realise that they didn't see everything about this reconciliation as wondrous, that they, in fact, did not consider it a family reunion at all. The wall had been built long before they were born and that was just the way that it was. Not all of them, mind you, but enough that it dominated conversation when we went out to the clubs.

The attitude of "why do we need to support them" frightened and upset me. The generation gap of living with my grandparents had coloured much of my view of the second World War but this was the first time I was seriously confronted with it.

So the wall coming down was a time of awakening for me, both politically and in terms of understanding/accepting how my background influenced my perspective. 20 years ago? I'm sure it can't be as much as that!

And now, my glass is empty.

#43 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 06:02 PM:

I was born with the Cold War, raised with the certainty that there would be another World War, and it would almost certainly be nuclear. Of course the events of 1989 were set in motion years before, the thaw was happening, but when the Wall came down, you could see that individual people were tearing down the barriers between the obsolete empires. The sight convinced me that the human race would not only survive, but that it would mature into something more than a bunch of apes evolved out of their depth.

Subsequent events weren't as happy, but I'm still convinced that we're growing up, just not on a timetable that fits my personal preferences. But I am sure we will see other events like the wall, perhaps one every generation or two for awhile, and that no one born after one will be able to understand how we lived as we did before.

#44 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 06:14 PM:

Here's an interesting bit of related news of today: activists in the West Bank try to pull down Israel's security wall, and are met with tear gas.

#45 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 06:16 PM:

*air toast*

It was bewildering in a very specific way. My adaptation to the Cold War had been to assume that I was going to get blown up, or die by radiation. I wasn't the least bit content with it, but I was used to it. When the wall came down, it was like losing a support -- in a good way. It was wonderful. It started to look like I might live to reach an old age. It was truly startling.

#46 ::: The New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 06:35 PM:

You know, the wall came down on the anniversary of Kristallnacht - 51 years to the day after my Opa's arrest in Boppard and my Pop-pop's arrest in Erlangen, and their conveyance to Dachau.

#47 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 06:38 PM:

Yesterday, on Remembrance Day, I visited a museum in a former secret bunker, one which houses what is reputedly the largest collection of (carefully decommissioned) nuclear weapons in private hands. I stood within touching distance of what I knew during my teenage years could very well be the death of not just me but of everything I had ever known. Today is the anniversary of the day I could believe right in my bones that it wouldn't happen. I'll gladly raise a glass to that.

It hasn't been all sweetness and light since then. But a generation has grown up without that fear that we would create our own Toba catastrophe level of destruction.

#48 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 06:56 PM:

Two movies of note:

The Lives of Others: Bland Stasi careerist spies on playwright and girlfriend.

Good Bye Lenin!: Young people recreate East Berlin in an apartment so delicate, bedridden mother who coma-slept through the fall of the Eastern Bloc doesn't have a fatal relapse.

#49 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 07:04 PM:

John@35, Jaegermonster it is. (I had some Czech Becherovka liqueur yesterday, just by coincidence.) My memories of those days are somewhat conflated - the Scorpions "Winds of Change" video with the Wall being torn down was actually from a year later, but it's what sticks in my mind. And while Tienanmen Square was retaken, China was opening up, and later we had the events in Russia. I'm in my mid-50s, so the Iron Curtain had already fallen when I was growing up, and my first political memories were of neighbors digging bomb shelters in their back yards during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Velma@25, my "turn on the TV now" phone call was on 9/11. One of my many frustrations about it was that after fifty years of Cold War and nuclear terrorism had ended, the Soviet Fracking Union had even fallen apart, and we'd had that cheerful if brief economic boom in the late 90s, the world had finally been turning out to be a fairly decent place again, in spite of all the people who wanted it to be otherwise and in spite of a new administration that would have liked a Cold War of their own.

I first went to Eastern Europe in 1993, a Libertarian conference in (still-Czecho-)Slovakia where we were talking about how to let the workers get ahold of the means of production before the ex-Communist bosses stole everything :-)

By ~1998, when I went to Berlin, there were a few parts of the wall left, but we had to drive a while to get to them. They'd mostly been built along the boundaries between different parts of Berlin, typically rivers or the boundaries of old towns that Berlin had absorbed, so some of them weren't in the way of newer progress. Checkpoint Charlie had been preserved, though it was now in the middle of a parking lot with the Wall gone, looking far less imposing than the gateway into the Evil Empire that it had been in so many spy novels, but the museum nearby was still very moving. Berlin was by then a city of construction cranes and scaffolding, with shipping containers forming temporary villages for construction workers, and the Reichstag was wrapped in plastic while they sandblasted it. The parts of East Berlin I saw were a mixture of old graceful buildings, Communist-era crumbling cement apartment blocks, and newer commercial buildings. There were two rather notable towers - the Radio/TV tower in Alexanderplatz in the East, and the Monument to German Imperialism in the park in West Berlin (it had some more formal war-memorialish name; it was a big statue of Nike, and was originally built for either the Franco-Prussian war or the war before that, but updated for later wars, and may the Cold War be the last of them!)

#50 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 07:15 PM:

I sent my mother a photo of my piece of the wall along with my above comment with my memories.

She wrote back that I should clarify that although they didn't really take a stand, the US did not actively support the building of the wall.

Another perspective issue: it didn't occur to me that it needed stating.

#51 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 07:24 PM:

I grew up in a town next to a former Navy base that was still a target after it became a Coast Guard base. The Cold War was like the vicious dog I had to walk past every day--maybe this time it would get through the fence and kill me. When the Wall came down, I felt as though I could take off and fly.

Right here, right now,
There is no other place I want to be.
Right here, right now,
Watching the world wake up from history.

The song has been jossed by time, of course, but when I hear it, I still remember watching the sections of the Wall tilting and lying down on my roommate's TV.

#52 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 08:34 PM:

The New York City Math Teacher #46:
Yes, tonight is also "The Night of Broken Glass", a night that shouldn't be forgotten for much different reasons than the one we're celebrating, I gave up on my attempt to make my earlier toast reflect on both events, I don't have that kind of skill with words. I'm sorry beyond words to hear that you have relatives that were taken to Dachau, and I hope they made it out of Germany and survived the war. I've visited Dachau, and can only vaguely comprehend what it was like to be interned and brutalized there.

Never again.

In a way, Nov 9th was the wrong day for the wall to fall, since it overlays the Kristallnacht history, but I also wonder if the somberness of the day had anything to do with the restraint of the East German guards in 1989.

#53 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 09:03 PM:

Here's to Freeman Dyson being wrong by an order of magnitude. In his 1985 book Infinite in All Directions he wrote that perhaps in 50 years Germany could be reunited.

#54 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 10:10 PM:

Stefan @24: I was one of those wargamers, kinda, only I'd given up wargaming about ten years before and then taken up role-playing games. The dropping of 10-kilotonne, 20-kT, 100-kT "tactical" nuclear weapons on a West Germany where the settlements were an average of 5-kT apart was almost as bad as the cognitive dissonance of playing a scenario where they weren't dropping like autumn leaves. When D&D made its way to my corner of the world, it was such a relief to go down into dungeons and murder innocent monsters for their treasure.

#55 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 10:20 PM:

Allan Beatty #53: Here's to Freeman Dyson being wrong by an order of magnitude. In his 1985 book Infinite in All Directions he wrote that perhaps in 50 years Germany could be reunited.

Well, it could still be 50 years for a unified Ireland. Or 500. And five to 50 thousand years for an Arab-Israeli Co-Prosperity Sphere.

#56 ::: The New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 10:36 PM:

Pop-pop was out by February, Opa by April. They were both out of Germany by August, 1939.

But Oma's brother Hugo never came home from Buchenwald.

As Francois Mauriac said, "J'aime tellement l'Allemagne que je suis heureux qu'il y en a deux."

#57 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 11:49 PM:

I puddle up too, each time I see (or even think about) all those people dancing on the Wall. The Wall - the whole Iron Curtain - falling was one of the few unambiguous Really Good Things to happen in the world.

One of my favorite comments on the event is Gloria Steinem's, who said: "It was the first female-style revolution: no violence and we all went shopping."

#58 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 12:29 AM:

I remember the year.

The hope, enshrined in a photograph of the prime ministers of Austria and Czechoslovakia removing the barbed wire between their countries, blended with the fear of a Tienanmen crackdown. I kept up with the news, searching for more items of the collapse of the Iron Curtain. I thought that it would happen, but the final collapse was breathtakingly fast when it happened.

Here's to the freedom of all who are oppressed in the here and now. In particular the Iranian people.

#59 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 12:46 AM:

Happy Anniversary, Crumbled Wall! I got a piece of you. A friend of my mom's brought it back from a trip home 20 years ago, I guess. You can't be remade without this piece, and I'm not giving it up.

#60 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 12:59 AM:

Raising fizzy water! It's almost as long between the time I visited Berlin and the time the Wall came down as between the time the Wall came down and now (I was there in 1968). It was a momentous day.

#61 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 01:16 AM:

NYC Math Teacher:

History haunts the day, the way it haunts the eleventh of September. The parallels and subtexts go on and on.

I think, personally, that Rwanda and Yugoslavia taught us that it was no special kink of the German character that drove the nightmare of the 30's and early 40's*. The means may be characteristic of the culture, but the monstrous impulse dwells in hearts all over the world.

Most historiography I have read on the subject points to the desperate poverty brought on by the reparations of the Treaty of Versailles as the accelerant of the National Socialists' rise to power. In that light, a stable, prosperous Germany becomes a goal worth seeking, even to the extent that the peace and plenty of all mankind is not a worthy aim.

Seeing a tangible step from a worse situation to a better one in my lifetime is surely worth a raised glass, if only to hope for more of the same as time goes by. This does not imply forgetfulness, or detract from watchful care.

* Not to mention the Turks with the Armenians, the fate of the Native Americans, on and on through history.

#62 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 01:28 AM:

Weird. I remember Tiannamen as following Berlin, too. Funny how memory tries to impose narrative order on history. What a whirlwind those years from 89 to 91 were. (Personally as well as internationally). Everything seemed possible, back then, well-earned and just within reach. And then it seemed to all go slightly sideways. But that's probably something of a mirage as well.

#63 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 01:29 AM:

Weird. I remember Tiannamen as following Berlin, too. Funny how memory tries to impose narrative order on history. What a whirlwind those years from 89 to 91 were. (Personally as well as internationally). Everything seemed possible, back then, well-earned and just within reach. And then it seemed to all go slightly sideways. But that's probably something of a mirage as well.

#64 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 01:38 AM:

And just two years earlier, then-president Ronald Reagan had gone to Berlin and shouted Pink Floyd lyrics at the Brandenburg Gate. "Mister Gorbachev, leave those kids alone!"

#65 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 02:25 AM:

Lee @39, the interesting thing is, there are some people whose personal history of political beliefs is just right so that for them, it's now happening for the second time- they switched their allegiance at the right time so that they could be horrified by the fall of the Warsaw Pact and the failure of the Cheney crowd.

(Oddly enough, I don't really remember much about the fall itself. About the days and weeks and months before and after, yes, but not much directly about the fall.)

#66 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 02:41 AM:

Another glass lifted here.

I'm old enough that, when the wall fell, it seemed like the end of an entire world of thinking and belief; I rode through East Germany on a bus in 1976; we stopped in Berlin, and the differences between East and West were startling to an American kid. The idea that that difference was gone--just like that--knocked me over.

I will say, watching the video of people waiting to go through the gate, that I felt a little sorry for the poor guards, left out in the night with not much guidance and a job they were supposed to do...

#67 ::: claudia ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 03:28 AM:

NYCMT: You may not know, because there might have been little to none US media coverage of it, but we Germans do not forget the duality of November 9th. There were widespread memorial services and acts all over Germany, especially by young people since that symbolizes more than anything that we DO NOT FORGET.

And only because I know you personally I can tell you gently that I find that Mauriac quote quite offensive. If you don't give a country room to grow and change by telling its people that they are still the same, that they are to be loathed and not loved, no matter what -- then you are asking for that which you fear. That's unwise.

I think we have proven that a unified Germany is nothing to be afraid of. I think we have proven over and over and over again that we are not the same nation as in the 1930s and 1940s. Or do you disagree?

#68 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 04:35 AM:

I vaguely remember the wall going up (I was 10 at the time). It seemed mad, impossible - you can't build a wall around a whole city, not even the Russians can get away with that. But they did, and there we were, thirty years later, accepting it as if it was the most normal thing in the wall.

Until somebody decided it wasn't. Which was great. But what are we going to get used to next?

#69 ::: Silverfox ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 07:55 AM:

In Austria here. *raises mug of green tea*

A while ago I was speaking with a Finnish friend that's a decade younger than me and was quite surprised when she said she finds it odd when she's reminded that the wall once existed. I always find it odd to be reminded that it's no longer there.

I do have memories of seeing it fall on TV, but they're not very clear. Counting back now that was the worst of my school years when I was completely convinced I was going to fail Latin. I guess I was too busy contemplating suicide to care much about world changing events ... Seems so silly now.

Was it good for the world in the end? I don't know. I wonder how the East Germans think about it now.

#70 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 08:00 AM:

November 9th has been a significant day in German history for several reasons other than those already cited. In 1923, it was the date of Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch, and in 1918 it was the day the Kaiser abdicated and the German Republic was declared.

Coincidentally, it also happens to be my birthday and that of Carol Carr, who was born on the actual ristallnacht.

#71 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 08:01 AM:

And the next year the Worldcon was in the Netherlands. I'm not sure there's ever been as international a worldcon, before or since. There was an open feel to the world that year, even tarnished as it had already become. Kuwait, anyone? I have a recollection that some Americans were already scared.

Maybe Japan? Did anyone get there using the Trans-Siberian Express?

The stories I hear, maybe it's just that they are so different to the image, but is the USA really such a dangerous country to enter?

#72 ::: The New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 08:14 AM:

Claudia, I don't disagree that Germany has proved that it's not that country. But *yesterday*! Why couldn't the wall have fallen down in May? Say, May 18?

#73 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 09:01 AM:

In the early 1990s, I worked with a young (formerly East) German woman who had been just the right age when the Wall came down; she took the opportunity to attend medical school in west Germany and was doing her fellowship with us. When she learned that I am Jewish, and had relatives who fled Eastern Europe, she apologized.

At that moment, I stopped being angry at Germany. I only wish my grandmother could have heard her. It wouldn't have done a thing for her lost sister or nieces and nephews, but it would have made her feel better about modern Germany.

I agree with abi; history shows us quite clearly that almost any country can -- with the right application of jingoism and hatred -- be brought to such depths. Kenya, Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia -- all Hitler did was export this kind of hatred on a large scale to most of Europe.

We are all challenged to never forget.

#74 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 10:07 AM:

I wasn't very surprised by the fall of the Berlin Wall. But, then, I'd been at a maths conference in Dresden scant months before (late August to early September, IIRC) and it all looked inevitable to me, once the student demonstrations started.

#75 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 11:43 AM:

Dave @71: Trans-Siberian Express? No, alas, but I did fly over Siberia direct from London. Before the fall of the Wall that trip would have gone... I don't know, across Europe to the Middle East, Hong Kong, then north over the South China Sea to Japan? Or flying over the ice cap, then a dog-leg through the Bering Straits?

#76 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 11:50 AM:

I didn't make it to Worldcon in 1990, but my thoughts of the Wall are bookended by two Worldcons: my first, Boston in 1989, shortly before it fell; my most recent, Montreal in 2009.

Along the "Underground City" path between the Delta and the Palais (though at ground level), the Centre du Commerce Mondial has a piece of the Berlin Wall in their atrium.

As I came past it on my way to the hotel, I saw it...thought back to my senior year of college, when so much changed both personally and globally...and realized that only a few months previously I had reached the point where the Berlin Wall had no longer been standing for the majority of my lifetime.

Seeing that in a building called a "World Trade Center", of course, adds an additional historical resonance.

#77 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 11:51 AM:

Lee #39:

What are the odds a bunch of them are actually the same people?

#78 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 12:15 PM:

A co-worker, one of my best friends, escaped from East Germany with her family, before the Wall went up. Their mother used to help people escaping to the West, and she'd taught her kids what to do if any Authorities ever came knocking on the door during the day and asking for her -- they had go bags all ready, and one night the mother and her four children had to use them.

My friend has been here since '63, but her sibs still live in Germany, and one of her sisters is here on a visit. Yesterday the sister was busy collecting various NYC newspaper stories about the fall of the Wall.

I'm 57 and the Wall had always been Weekly Reader-current events stuff to me -- that and the Cold War fears that others have written of above -- but knowing these older German friends, and hearing them speak, more often in recent years, about their early lives, has made it all Real in a way that I think such things still aren't, for many many Americans.

May such as the events of 20 years ago become increasingly Real worldwide, and those of 51 years ago become, more and more, just distant memorie.

#79 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 12:17 PM:

That's "memories".


#80 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 12:19 PM:

A day late, but no less heartfelt, I raise my mug of tea.

On 11/9/89 I was a sophomore in college. I had just declared my German major and was applying to programs to spend my junior year in Germany. I was glued to the tv in my dorm all that night in utter astonishment at what was happening.

I remember it wasn't too far into 1990 before I saw a globe that had the new Eastern European map on it, and how fascinating that was to see.

I traveled to Berlin while there were panels of the Wall still standing, and the people there weren't quite used to the concept of being able to travel freely between East and West Berlin yet. I took the U-Bahn from a stop in the West to a stop in the East, and the train passed through several "ghost stations" en route, including one directly underneath Checkpoint Charlie. It was positively eerie. I remember how you knew you were in East Berlin because the architecture suddenly got very severe and boring, and the air smelled strongly of coal.

On Unification Day I passed up a chance to go to Berlin for the celebrations because I had no money and was afraid of the crowds. Instead, I went to the party in the basement Kneipe of one of the buildings in the Studentenstadt where I lived. There was a small tv on the bar, surrounded by all the American students actually watching the coverage from Berlin and celebrating the historic moment. All the Germans in the room totally ignored what was going on, they just sat in groups huddled over their beers bitching about how much their taxes were about to go up.

In the spring I took a day trip to Prague via bus with two friends, simply because we could. We each exchanged DM5 for an obscene amount of Czechoslovakian money that we couldn't possibly spend in one day. We would've been fine if we had just exchanged a total of 5 Mark. We ate our way across Prague, concluding with dinner at a 5-star restaurant before it was time to get on the bus back to Munich. We still had money left over.

I can't believe it's been only 20 years.

#81 ::: claudia ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 12:24 PM:

NYCMT -- well, that's history for you. There was a momentum, and it couldn't -- and shouldn't -- have been stopped. All of Germany would have preferred a different date, I'm sure. June 17 would have been perfect.

#82 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 12:34 PM:

Here's to the fall of the wall.

When we went to see the WATCHMEN movie, it triggered memories of how times have changed and how dated the movie felt. The graphic novel was published during the latter stages of the Cold War (though we didn't know it at the time). It was a time of fear & anxiety, living under the shadow of MAD.

I remember the TV coverage of the riotous celebrations of Germans dancing and taking to the wall with hammers & chisels.

The initial disbelief gave way to relief, that maybe the world wasn't going to end in nuclear fire after all. Like waking from a prolonged bad dream. The joy came later.

#83 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 12:37 PM:

claudia@81: Sometimes I really think the universe lacks a sense of poetic symmetry.

#84 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 01:04 PM:

The other half of Germany "proving they're not the country of yesterday", of course, is all of us accepting that our countries could have been, maybe even could BE, that country. At least, we haven't got a proven effective vaccine against xenophobia and authoritarianism that I've noticed yet.

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 01:21 PM:

Indeed, Germans I have known who were in the US right after 9/11 have said that the resemblance to Germany right before WWII was truly uncanny and deeply disturbing.

We seem to have thrown that off for the moment. I hope.

#86 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 02:52 PM:

I was about 15 when this happened. I remember watching it on TV in my grandmothers living room.

I recall thinking two things. The first being I never thought I'd see that happen, the second was general awe that is was happening.

It was sure a wild few years back then.

#87 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 04:53 PM:

Ah yes, a lovely thing. When the breaking news of the day is humans waging peace on each other. May it become an old habit.

#88 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 07:53 PM:

With you all the way. I sometimes regret not making the sacrifices to meet an ex-girlfriend in Berlin to see Pink Floyd play the wall, in '88. I missed the chance to see something which seemed appallingly eternal, just before it was shown to be ephemeral.

So, tonight, with you, in honor of it, I will sip some Glenmorangie (maderia finish) and savor the ephemera of the world.

#89 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 10:20 PM:

I just saw a really wonderful story in the NYT that seems appropriate here - - It seems that about 10% of US electricity currently comes from nuclear reactors running on decommissioned Soviet nuclear weapons. There's also some running off of decommissioned US nukes. It won't last forever, even if some of the decommission-more-weapons agreements happen, but it's a Really Good Thing.

#90 ::: Sus ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2009, 09:27 AM:

I welled up just reading your post, Abi. I was 14 when that wall came down. All I remember of that night are the scenes still shown on tvs around the world today.

I was working last night, but tonight I will drink a toast to the memory of those who died trying to get to the other side, to the folks in Leipzig who just wouldn't stop marching, and to all those good people in Berlin who made the final push.

And to my dad, whose grandmother and aunts decided to move to the West a week before the borders closed for 40 years.

Thanks for this post.


#91 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2009, 11:22 AM:

Ever since that fall, I've known that the world can change overnight and that sometimes, it's for the better.

#92 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2009, 05:11 PM:

I'm really missing the Armistice Day post.

#93 ::: Chris Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2009, 07:11 PM:

Here's an excellent blow-by-blow account about it on an excellent history blog (Edge of the American West).

#94 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2009, 09:33 PM:

Bill #89:

That's a wonderful swords-into-plowshares image. Instead of burning up our cities, we're just using that fissile material to keep our lights burning.

I was in college, and completely blown away when the wall fell. It was a nice example of the way you can really believe some aspect of the world is unfixably a certain way, and then it just *changes* on you. It was nice that this change (as opposed to several more recent ones here in the US) was in a good direction.

#95 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2009, 09:36 PM:

(Or is it fissionable? I can never keep those straight.)

#96 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2009, 01:37 AM:

Batocchio has a whole series of posts reflecting on war and Armistice Day here.

#97 ::: martyn ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2009, 02:24 AM:

I remember the wall going up, and I remember it coming down. I doubt the synchronicity of Cristallnacht and the Fall was lost on the German people, and it should not be on the rest of us. Everything passes, everything changes. Any people can recover their sanity, especially given the goodwill of their neighbours, wherever they are, just as they can lose it of they do not have goodwill towards their neighbours, wherever they are.

#98 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2009, 12:52 PM:

It was kind of shocking, at the time, that the commies ended up not nuking Berlin. It was a pretty severe provocation, after all.

#99 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2009, 01:43 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ #98, the Berlin Airlift might have been an even greater provocation, but the Soviets didn't go to war over that. The horrors of WW II were a lot closer in time then, so maybe that proved cautionary.

#100 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2009, 05:34 PM:

Tv-less, I didn't watch the news 20 years back. Now, thanks to your links, I did. I cried too.

#101 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2009, 06:26 PM:

Earl, IIRC Gorbachev had already announced that the Soviet Union would not interfere in the internal affairs of other Warsaw Pact countries. I remember thinking that the downfall of East Germany was inevitable when he said that, even before the Wall came down.

#102 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2009, 07:54 PM:

That could have been a ruse to flush out which Warsaw Pact countries were the most disloyal and in need of punitive correction with tanks.

#103 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2009, 06:53 PM:

My wife and I watched the New Year's Eve 1989 concert in Berlin on PBS, when they played Beethoven's Ninth with the original lyrics ("FREIHEIT!") restored. We were both in tears by the end, knowing that the world really wasn't going to come to an end after all, that our children would live to grow up.

But this is still the song that I will always associate with the end of the Hell Century (1914-1989).

#104 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2009, 07:21 PM:

I was 25 when the Wall came down: right smack in between the generation that saw it go up and the one for whom it had always been down. And even knowing that Gorbachev's announcement was the death knell for the Wall, it was amazing when it came so soon afterward; joy, and a sudden lightening of the darkness, the ultimate antidote to the horror of Tienanmen Square.

That said, it wasn't the fall of the Wall that made it real for me; that came when I picked up the shortwave transmission from the newly free Czechoslovakia, being about as close as I could get to seeing/hearing it directly as I could get while remaining in Cleveland. But the emotion there was awe; joy was for the Wall that was no more.

#105 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 01:49 AM:

Dr. Psycho: The Freiheit version was a later story. It made for nice theater, but it wasn't the original. Beethoven used the An de Fruede.

Bernstein's notes explained all of this.

#106 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:10 AM:

Terry Karney @ 105... Leonard or Elmer?

#107 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 09:10 AM:

I've heard that Schiller's original poem was Freiheit, later changed to Freude as the Revolution started falling into infighting and imperialism. An Beethoven followed that version.

This could be just a good story.

#108 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 09:39 AM:

I was living with Mark then, having married him seven months earlier, and someone -- Farber? -- called told us to turn on our television,

Oh, of course Farber would be first to notice it...

#109 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 09:43 AM:

I heard that Schiller's original used Freiheit too, and that the censors made him change it.

If you read the poem, it makes a lot more sense with Freiheit. IMVHAWTBCO.*
*In My Very Humble And Willing To Be Contradicted Opinion

#110 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 10:41 AM:

109: I'm afraid the BBC reckons that's "plausible but unfounded"

and the poem isn't just about freedom - it's about all forms of joy, it mentions equality, marital and family love, friendship, scientific discovery, drinking... freedom's a part of it, but it's seen as a source of joy (the pursuit of happiness, as you might say) rather than the subject itself.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.