The Berlin Wall – the Before and After

Berlin Wall 1979

My father took this photo of the Berlin Wall around 1978.

28 years ago today – on November 9th 1989 – the Berlin Wall came down. I was only a teenager at the time, but I have vivid memories of watching what was happening on the TV news.

I also remember adults telling me that this was an historic moment. Of course it was, as the Soviet block began to crumble and the global balance of power shifted. But for Berliners this was life-changing.

No more being separated from fellow Germans; no more being controlled by the state and the secret police (the Stasi). This was freedom like most of us will never experience.

Stasi interogation

A Stasi interogation room at the DDR Museum, Berlin

This footage gives a taste of what it was like when, on November 9th 1989, the DDR politicians finally decided they had to open the border crossings between East and West Berlin.

Some fortunate Berliners managed to escape the East before 1989. This short film shows how some did that in the 1960s via a secret tunnel not far from where I now live.

My family at the Berlin Wall, 1979

My mother, sister and I at the Berlin Wall in 1978. (I’m on the left of the photo.)

It turns out that I visited the Berlin Wall as a child. I was born in Germany because my father was stationed here with the British army.

Visits to Berlin were infrequent because it was difficult to get here. Remember that even West Berlin was an island in the middle of East Germany. My mother describes driving down a long stretch of road known as the ‘corridor’ in order to get from the West to Berlin.

And today? Well to many of us it’s just modern history. The images above are taken at the East Side Gallery – the 1.3 kilometre stretch of the Berlin Wall that has been preserved and decorated by artists.

Even when I asked an East Berliner if she was marking the 28th anniversary of the wall coming down, she just shrugged her shoulders and said it was all a long time ago. It’s easy to get used to freedom.




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