Monday, November 9, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and the Indifferent

"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!!!


  1. I wasn't there when the Wall came down and such but I do know the spirit of Germany and if I had the riches it would be my second home for sure if I could just avoid your That is something I don't wish on anybody... No I know the whole system of how you pay half your income it seems in taxes and if that isn't enough they get the rest of your income at the store or when you put fuel in your car... 100 euro to fill your tank isn't something to laugh at... I guess with any culture you can see how things can divide you and although you are of one country you are still different... Those from the north will always hold themselves differently then those from the south and those from the east will look at things differently then those from the west... Even in countries that have never had the barrier like the Berlin Wall... I did enjoy reading all of this and boy do I miss Smooches to ya...

  2. Excellent... thank you... just what I envisioned and hoped for, you giving us all the particulars, some history, and relevant information as well, all packaged in your irrepressible style. Thank you for this... you keep giving gifts that I shall never forget. This is a valuable history lesson that the whole world could benefit in paying closer attention to. Thanks again... kisses!

  3. Thank you..... I have never been to Germany, but you make me feel like I visit with you when you share like this....

  4. Uh oh... see, now I loved this, because I am so interested in you, and your background, and your feelings about your life and the things that you have witnessed and experienced... Looks like the average reader/follower likes something a bit more jazzier out of you... but fear not, I loved it tons, and so very much appreciate your bringing to life a great moment in our recent history. Thanks again for sharing so much of you, and doing it in such a great way! Tons of love...

  5. I was barely 7 years old. I can't remember a thing. But I'm glad the wall's down anyway.

  6. Michael -- I know you like Germany. To be honest though, living within the government structure is way different than living as an American stationed over there. No american soldier is truly living within the german economy, regardless if one lives on post or off. But you know, the German's have lived with the government and have gotten used to it all and today, there is nooooo way that you could ever reduce the government. I could go on and on about this, but i shall refrain ;-) Let's meet in Berlin and have a dance, what say you?? ;-)

    Tom -- your wish was my command. It blows my mind each and every time when foreign (foreign to Germany) say that they are happy the wall is gone. Most of those don't even know why the darn thing stood there to begin with. They don't even see what financial strain it has put on the German's when it came down. But the German's are a hardy people, much like those in Wisconsin, eh?

    Mary -- Wanna go? I will be your personal tour-guide and will present you with quite the trip to remember ;-) meet you at the airport? ;-)

    Liam -- what makes you say that you are glad that the wall is down? How has the fall of the wall impacted you? ;-)

  7. I watched it unfold on the TV and was moved but I can't imagine the electricity those who were there felt when the barrier separating families and friends came down to unify a country after so long.

  8. Hallo :-) Ich wollte erzählen,dass ich vor zwei Tagen zum Fest der Freiheit an Brandenburger Tor war und ich hab mich vorher gefragt,wie wird es wohl nach 20 Jahren werden !? Am 9.11.1989 lebte ich in West-Berlin und war am Ende meiner Ausbildung bei der Post. An diesem Tag war ich mit zwei Freunden am Kurfürstendamm und im Kaufhaus sahen wir im Fernsehen,dass die Mauer offen sein soll... WOW... !!! Am Abend waren wir am Brandenburger Tor und konnten das alles nicht fassen ! Party,Freude....aber auch Tränen und Besinnlichkeit,keiner konnte das alles glauben....dieses gefühl werde ich nie in meinem leben vergessen !!! ............und dieses Gefühl kam vor zwei Tagen genau sooooo hat geregnet,war aber egal. Aussenministerin Clinton war da,mit einer Video-Botschaft von Barak Obana.....der Russische,Englische und der Französische Präsident haben auch gesprochen.......und wir wussten,wem wir die Wiedervereinigung zu verdanken haben,genauso wussten wir aber auch,dass Massen von Menschen in der ehemaligen DDR dafür gekämpft haben,ihre Freiheit zu bekommmen .......Respekt !
    Aber auch wir im ehemaligen West-Berlin haben nie vergessen ,dass uns die Alliierten immer zu Seite standen....teilweise in den schlimmsten Stunden........
    Und da ich ja jetzt hier in Deinem Blog bin,möchte ich mich hier noch spiziell bedanken ! Thank you Amerika,wi'll never forget it in Germany !

    Auch unsere Kanzlerin hat gesprochen,die ja selber aus der ehemaligen DDR kam,auch sie fand die richtigen Worte.

    Handgemalte Mauerstücke wurden wie Domino-Steine "eingerissen"......die Mauer stürzte ein zweites Mal ein !

    Dann haben am Abend Bon Jovi das Brandenburger Tor war nur schön.........und ich weiss,dass es immer schön bleiben wird !!!!!!

    P.S. Ich musste damals auch Begrüssungsgeld auszahlen am Wochenende.....solche Schlangen hab ich nie wieder gesehen..........

    Lieben Gruss !

  9. Walker -- it was an awesome feeling to have been there and to see families reunite.. the tears that were shed were of happiness and just to watch them all hug and all worries of the world seemed to have been forgotten in that moment.. it was neat to witness.

    Frank -- schoen das Du ein Kommentar geschrieben hast. ich glaube, wir beide kannten uns zu dieser Zeit nicht, obwohl ich schon seit Sommer 1987 dort arbeitete. LOL.. ja stimmt.. ich vergass das es "Begruessungsgeld" genannt wurde.. lol. mein Deutsch wird immer schlechter :-( Was soll ich sagen, muss halt oefter nach Berlin kommen ;-) Dicke Umarmung fuer Dich, mein Freund ;-)

  10. Da konnten wir uns ja auch noch nicht kennen.....ich hab meine Ausbildung in Berlin-Spandau gemacht und dort danach auch noch gearbeitet am Post-Schalter, obwohl ich ja in Bln-Mariendorf wohnte. Ich bin erst 1990 zum damaligen Postgiroamt gekommen,im Herbst.Hab also in Spandau das Begrüssungsgeld ausgezahlt....sooooo viele "Hunderter" (damals Deutsche Mark....seufz ;-) ) gingen nie wieder durch meine Hände,das war echt unglaublich.....bei Dir bestimmt auch,oder ? Weisst Du ,was wir für die Arbeit am Wochende bekommen haben ? Einen Pfandkuchen,weil die Faschingszeit gerade anfing ;-)) Hast Du direkt im Giroamt das Geld ausgezahlt ? Dann muss ja bei Dir die Schlange ewig lang gewesen direkt an der Grenze in Kreuzberg. Bei mir hat sogar die Polizei damals die Türen kontrolliert,damit die Post nicht auseinander war eine einzigartige Erfahrung,die ich nie vergessen werde.....war Stress,aber auch schön !

    Auch für Dich eine Umarmung,meine Freundin ;-)

  11. The Wall

    My memories of the wall are few but lasting. But this I can tell you, I lived in Germany for about four years and loved every second of it. The people were great and made me feel at home. I loved the food, beer, and the castles in every town it seemed.
    I could go into that more but let’s get on to the wall. I remember it pretty clear even today except for the name of the town I was standing in watching the wall. I remember the river and what looked to be a quaint small village on the other side and the Wall. The Wall was nothing in my point of view but yet it had this presents, no, no the wall meant nothing alone buy its self. But the there was this feeling about the town and its isolation from what I considered to be the real world. It was like another planet with an alien race. For some reason there was a feeling of sadness and I’m not quite sure for what, the people, humans in general or the town which was lovely in its own right. I left that day and that picture left a scar in my memories. Good or bad I don’t really know which. The wall, I’m glad it came down.

  12. Ich denke das sich die meisten deutschen ziemlich genau an diesen "besonderen" tag erinnern werden. Wo sie waren, was sie zu diesem zeitpunkt taten und vor allen an ihre gedanken dazu.

    Ich saß mit freunden zusammen als wir durch die eltern erfuhren das die mauer nun offen sei.

    So ein blödsinn war mein erster gedanke, ich war mir sicher das dies nur ein scherz sein konnte.

    wie sich herausstellte war es keiner!

    Die grenze war offen, in berlin herschte das chaos. Es kam einen vor als sei die ddr komplett nach berlin eingereist. die luft war erfüllt vom zweitakt-gestank.

    Wie frank schon schon sagte mußte er an diesen tagen soviel 100derter ausgeben wie nie wieder, liegt sicher auch daran das sich viele nicht nur einmal "ihr" begrüßungsgeld abholten sondern mehrmals. Alleinne dieser schaden wird heute mit ca 250.000.000 !!!!!!!!beziffert

    Aber macht ja nichts weiter ist lediglich ein tropfen auf den heißen stein.

    Seit der wiedervereinigung im darauffolgenden jahr sind weitere 1,5 Billionen Euro hineingeflossen.

    Dies beinhaltet nicht einmal die kosten für die rentenauszahlungen (haben ja bis dahin nichts in den rentenfond einbezahlt)

    ich glaube kaum das die 1,5 Billionen Euro die wirklichen kosten beziffert.

    Wie auch immer ich für mich kann sagen das die grenzen auch heute noch ziemlich deutlich in köpfen sind. nicht nur in meinen. sicherlich liegt dies auch an meiner generation, wir kennen deutschland länger getrennt als vereint sind so groß geworden.

    Schlimm finde ich dies nicht, man arangiert sich mit ihnen so gut es geht oder läßt es bleiben.

    Schlimm hingegen ist jedoch das in vielen köpfen der "ddr" büger immernoch die "ddr" existent ist.

    Vor einigen Ttagen hat sich doch tatsächlich ein Herr EGON KRANZ (Staatschef der DDR) bei den Grenzsoldaten in aaler öffentlichkeit und vor laufender kamera für ihre geleistete arbeit an der grenze bedankt!!

    Frei nach dem motto:
    Schön das ihr menschen für unser land getötet habt die nur frei sein wollten oder bereit dazu gewesen seid.

    ein weiteres bespiel: bei den letzten wahlen hat es die links Partei (nachfolgepartei der SED) wieder in einigen ländern in die regierung geschaft. Wäre nicht so schlimm wen dort nicht auch ein nicht geringer anteil an ehemaligen sedlern mitglied wäre.

    Haben den diese wähler nichts dazu gelernt?
    Sind sie noch immer in ihren mauer eingespeert und haben nichts vom mauerfall mitbekommen?

    In der hoffnung das es eines tages auch in den letzten köpfen ankommt freue ich mich denoch wieder vereintes deutschland mein zuhause nennen zu dürfen

  13. Krenz heißt er schreibfehler

  14. Thomas -- how nice to see you again ;-) Well, you know, i grew up with the wall... it was already there and my mom was a little kid when it was built. For us, it was just a thing that's there and really meant very little.. didn't even have any family or friends on the east-side. Just from the "Human" standpoint, it makes me happy that the thing is gone and a separation isn't forced, however, today, as my Friend Anonymous pointed out, there is still a separation in people's head and that will remain so for quite a lot of reasons. Thanks for sharing your memories, Thomas ;-)

    Thor -- Danke das Du doch noch ein Kommentar geschrieben hast. Wie Du, denke auch ich, das es schoen ist, dies Mauer nicht mehr im Weg zu haben. Wenn da nun nicht mehr das Preisschild dran haengen wuerde, wie? Und die Mentalitaet von so einigen, ob west oder ost... aber kann man es denen Uebel nehmen? ich glaube nicht. Ich erinnere mich, frueher von der SED gehoert zu haben.. Heute komme ich kaum noch nach mit dem was bei euch politisch geschieht. Schon alleine das 2 Parteien regieren, das schuettel ich den Kopf und kann's nicht so ganz verstehen.. aber darueber unterhielten wir uns ja schon ;-) Ich vermisse mein Berlin.. und ich vermisse Dich ;-)


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