Monday, November 9, 2009
"In the Moment has left a new comment on your post "My Baby's big Day":
Here I am again, with a request for you. I know that you are busy and have so much going on... Today, as you are probably well aware, is the 20th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall. You were there, maybe not at the wall, but in Berlin as this was happening. Could you tell us about your memories of that time, and how it all strikes you now... I would love to hear your feelings, as for you, not all of this has been the best of things that could happen, though the world views it as a wonderful thing... As a Berliner, please, if you could, tell us about your feelings about the wall, about the wall coming down 20 years ago, and anything else that you might want to add, with your own, lovely, unique way of saying things. I would love it... and your followers would to, I think... huge hugs for a great day! And thank you... for everything."
Hard to believe that it has already been twenty years since that day; The day I stood before the Berlin Wall, at the Brandenburg Gate, with hundreds of people waiting for something to happen. It was our turn to open the borders. Not so fast!!! East Berlin and West Berlin becoming one city again? That cannot be done. It should be done though. And after all, Reagan was asking really nicely to Tear that Wall down. Everyone who was there had a different reason for being there. Some were looking forward to finally having that ugly thing gone from our streets. Some were there in the hopes to greet their family members who were forced to live "on the other side". Some were there 'cause there was the word spreading that there is a huge party at the wall. Actually, most of us young folks where there for the party. Take a drink, pull up a chair and let me tell you how this day in history went down for me.
It was just another night hanging out with my friends until the word came in that we all have to gather at the Brandenburg Tor, NOW. No more needed to be said after "a huge party is going on" and we all got into our cars and head towards Tiergarten. The streets were full of people; most equipped with lots of beer. Singing and screaming was going on, something we Germans are really good at when we are drunk. We finally arrived at the Wall, right by the Brandenburg Gate. Some of my friends decided to join the party right away and climbed up the wall and stood where no man has stood before (and especially not for that long without hearing some shots fired by the East German guards). We then all danced and sang and partied and were totally sucked into the atmosphere and the mind-set of setting free our fellow Germans who were trapped and mistreated on the other side. To make a point, some thought it to be necessary to light up a Molotov Cocktail, toss that over in the direction of the chariot and set the flag of the DDR on fire. Still, no shots!!! We were a young ignorant people who thought to be rebellious and fight "the man" and we can be the heroes for saving our sisters and brothers. (not taking away any credit to Mr. Reagan here!!) Finally, we are all free!!! Whoo hoo, may I have another beer, please? Most of us youngsters were already quite drunk, whether it was from our surrounding happenings or from the actual demon we call alcohol. And now we all had enough adrenalin running through our bodies that we can be invincible. Out came the tools. would you believe me if i told you that some actually had those tiny metal hammers in their pockets? It's true!!! And they started to hammer away. Until, finally, the borders are opened. People from the East started to storm through and into the West, some on food, others by car (well, a Trabant [the east german soap box they liked to call "car" ] didn't really qualify as a car, did it now?) Some came with all they could carry and left all else behind, knowing they'd never return, others walked slower as if they needed to dip their tows into the cold water first. And we greeted them with beer and champagne. People who didn't even know each other hugged and shared tears. Some offered total strangers from the East a place to stay as a wonderful welcome to the West. Tears were shed and dried. Happiness all over the place. Yesssssss... we are now unified and nobody, NOBODY could change that ever again. Or could they?
The Flip-side to the reunification: The government decided that the people new to the "Golden-West" ,as we were often referred to, needed money to spend. With a passport in hand, they could now go to any bank and receive 100 DM (Deutsch Marks) for each person registered in their passport (usually parent and children). I worked for a bank at the time and was put in a teller position to hand out the "welcome-to-the-west" free money and at the end of the day, I counted the scratch marks on my hands, as some people grabbed the money as quickly as they could and ran. A few days later, it was detected that some of our new "friends" have figured out how to trick the system and get more money. Car businesses boomed for a short moment as our new friends were hungry for BMW's and that oh so luxurious Mercedes Benz. Car dealer's were more than happy to talk those lovely people into a ridiculous loan and secured their bonuses. Hotel chains also got hit by folks from the East, as they booked their rooms but left without paying. Newspapers reported that some actually had the guts to leave a message on the mirror, such as "It's now our time to get what was taken from us for the past 40 years". This set quite a lot into motion. And then us regular folks learned what it meant to now be re-united. Grocery stores ran out of groceries faster than they could re-stalk the shelves. Some stores had to stay closed for days before they received new groceries to sell. We received quite the tax hikes (income tax today is anywhere from 40%-65%) and when that was still not enough, the government now took hold of our NET-income ('cause they didn't already tax the heck out of our GROSS-income!!). They promised they would only take 1% from your monthly NET income for only one year. This money was to be used to re-build East-Germany. 20 years later, the government takes now 3% of your monthly NET income, raised sales tax and today they are at 19% (already, talks are suggesting to raise sales tax to 25% this coming year), is taxing your monthly social security check, hiked the cost of health care ( oh yes, for you out there thinking that we German's have free health care.. we never ever had FREE health care and it didn't come cheap either!!! ), increased unemployment, added a regulation to your social security (no longer will you receive such payments if you don't have a private retirement account in place.. and yes, that too, is being taxed!!). Don't forget the cost of making Berlin the capitol again, rebuilding Friedrichstrasse to a luxury shopping street, shifting the city center from Ku'damm to Potdamer Platz (as it was a long time ago), rebuilding almost all embassies, oh yes, and the change to the Euro came with a huge price-tag as well. And the list goes on and on and on and has not found its end as the government keeps on growing.
Germany is a great Country. Now that's a statement that finds friends and opposition alike. No need to bring up certain twelve years!!! In my view, however, it is a great country, from its historical standpoint. I was born and raised in Berlin. A city founded in 1237 A.D. and with the fall of the wall, we from the West, have once again access to the place where it all began. Where Berlin came to be. Since the wall was already up for some years when I was born, having access to our own history like that was and still is rather exciting. With the fall of the wall, we gained much access to our own history that was kept for so long behind the wall and not very appreciated by the people of the East. My recent trip back home to Berlin in August 2009 still showed, how divided this city still is. The big concrete wall was torn down only to be replaced with an invisible wall in its place. With the East and the West evolving as two very different cultures and two different education systems (German history as well as world history was taught very different over there then us kids in the West were taught). East Germans and West Germans alike agree and disagree whether the fall of the wall was and is a good thing. With the government doing its thing, can you blame them for bringing up questions? Nobody, however, seems to argue about whether or not it was a good thing to bring together the people of the West and the East. This was a wonderful idea. Most of us do agree. Now, if we could only get rid of about 90% of the government who seem to have taking the New Germany as their own personal piggy bank. But regardless, the Germans have not lost their taste for good beer and a good conversation, regardless where you are coming from and what's your background. And so we say "Prost" and hope that the German people will never be physically divided ever again!!!
Posted by Liane at 9:20 PM