Exactly twenty-five years ago today, the Berlin Wall fell uniting both a segregated Germany and the world alike. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 and was intended to isolate and prevent East Germans from fleeing the confines of Communism. The poor and innocent population of East Germany was imprisoned by the wall that came to represent death, destruction, and hate.
The history of Germany contains several tragic events, from the torture and murder of thousands of Jews during World War II, to the oppression and even murder of East Germans seeking to free themselves from the shackles placed upon by them by their government. On November 9, 1989, hope spread around the world, as the German people on both sides of the wall physically and mentally tore down the barriers imposed upon them in a united front. While I was not even two years old when this momentous moment occurred, little would I know how this event would influence the world I grew up in. Many consider the fall to mark the end of the Cold War and the beginning of a new era filled with strength, acceptance, and hope.
As a student at Texas A&M University, I became very involved in international organizations and therefore had the privilege of befriending a wonderful group of international students. Three of my very closest friends were visiting Texas A&M from Bochum University. They encouraged me to do things I had never done before, such as skydiving and line dancing, and they inspired me to truly enjoy my life and the people around me. They also taught me about how a person’s history and culture can shape the lenses by which life is viewed. As I learned more about their background and cultural influences as young Germans, I was fascinated by what appeared to be a hesitance of national pride.
I specifically remember one evening asking my favorite German friends why they had hung up a Texas flag and Texas A&M University flag in their apartment but not a German flag. They immediately wanted to change the subject saying that hanging a German flag was just not appropriate. My friends were several generations removed from the tragic events that occurred in World War II, but yet it appeared that they still carried this heavy weight on their shoulders.
Germany has made countless strides to fight discrimination and has heavily contributed to the world. Germans have made incredible advances in technology, developed countless pharmaceutical products, and have even influenced the world of fashion. Fortunately national pride in Germany is changing and growing, which is wonderful and much deserved. Germans truly have a lot to be proud of.
The fall of the Berlin Wall depicted the strength of the German people, and it is amazing to reflect upon the progress that has been made on a global level following the passage of twenty-five years.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to study in Switzerland for several months in 2007, and one of the coordinators of my program happened to have a past in East Germany. She was still heavily impacted by the actions of her own family during thos difficult times, and in an effort to teach us how far the world has progressed, she took my class to visit the Wall that signified so much sadness to her. She wanted us to witness in person the physical barriers that once stood strong so that we would feel the disgust and distain for such actions and stand for good, not hate.
If you are ever blessed with an opportunity to visit Berlin, I highly recommend you seize the chance to experience the culture and history of this wonderful city. Berlin is filled with kind and endearing people (and has some incredibly shopping by the way).
As I walked around the city and saw where the Wall once stood, it made me happy to grow up in a time where people were not separated by physical barriers due to their beliefs. However, I was also reminded of the fact that there is surely more work to be done on the inclusion front.