The Fall of the Berlin Wall - 20 years on
I crossed the border into East Germany on three occasions:
1. In 1963 when I was a student in Hamburg. The West German government organised heavily subsidised trips to Berlin for foreign students. The Wall had been there for just two years. There were memorials all along the Wall to people who had been shot trying to flee to the West. We were allowed to cross into East Berlin on foot via Checkpoint Charlie.
2. In 1976 when I was a lecturer at Ealing College. I spent a month on a course for teachers of German at the then Karl-Marx University in Leipzig. I had a room in a flat with an East German family. It was a very good course and improved my German considerably. I travelled around a bit, visiting Dresden, Naumburg, Jena, Bitterfeld, Halle and Colditz Castle. Life was pretty grim in East Germany at that time.
3. I walked through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin again on Sunday, 12 November. This is quite a story. There had been lots of reports on TV about the demonstrations in the East Germany, and the atmosphere in both East and West was very tense. We all wondered if the Russian tanks were about to move in. But the outcome was not what we expected. As I was driving home from Ealing College on 9 November I heard an announcement on the radio that the Berlin Wall had been opened and that citizens from East Berlin were being allowed to cross into West Berlin. I was gobsmacked, as I was about to head for Berlin the following morning, 10 November, to visit three of my students who were spending part of their year abroad at the Freie Universität in West Berlin, to give a guest lecture at the Humboldt University in East Berlin and to go to a conference on ICT and language learning and teaching in Rostock. This has all been planned weeks ahead, and I had no idea that I would be an eye-witness to the most momentous event I have ever experienced in my life. My full report is here:
What a week!
Now we have a whole generation of kids who have grown up and have never experienced the division of Germany. This excellent video on YouTube reminds us of what the border looked like:
"Eingemauert!" Die innerdeutsche Grenze
If you have the Second Life viewer installed on your computer you can experience the Wall in 3D. The 3D simulation, complete with an accomanying exhibition, can be found here: