Mal sehen (we’ll see). How come I’ve never stumbled across a history of the Berlin Wall before? And why on earth am I asking you? Anyway, I may have found one now, although I’ve still got to find somebody who is willing to shell out the $27 for the damned thing (won’t be easy in my social circle) so I can borrow it for a while. Parts of this review sure makes it sound worth reading at least:

“To anyone who remembers the surreal presence of the Berlin Wall, its absence now seems little short of miraculous. Walk from the Tiergarten, once in the West, across Pariser Platz, once a wasteland, and have a beer on the Unter den Linden, once in the East. Now it takes a few minutes; before November 1989, it wouldn’t have been possible at all. Or drive through Berlin’s western suburbs: Although there are neighborhoods where the streets form odd patterns, it is no longer possible to say which house was on which side of the border back then, so thorough has been the renovation and regeneration of the landscape. And yet at the time, the concrete structure of the Wall seemed so permanent, so indestructible…

Certainly the Wall’s existence saved East Germany which by 1961 was hemorrhaging people — mostly educated youths seeking a better life in the already more prosperous and freer West — at an astounding rate of 20,000 every month, according to Taylor. Though the regime always characterized the Wall as the ‘anti-fascist protection barrier,’ there was never any doubt that it was designed not to keep fascists out, but to keep East Germans in. Nor was there any doubt that without it, the regime would have collapsed, as indeed it did in 1989 when the Wall was finally breached…

The Wall also allowed West Berlin to develop into the peculiar place it became in the 1970s, when businesses shunned the city but young left-wingers flocked to live there. Residents of West Berlin were not only exempt from military service, they were also likely to be on the receiving end of massive cultural subsidies, doled out by the West German government as a bribe to get people to stay. The result was a city of artists and activists, one that became — bizarrely, given the circumstances — deeply anti-American.”

So if you feel like getting smart about that forgotten phantom something that, despite its disappearance (or maybe because of it?), still echoes everywhere through the streets of this town, “The Berlin Wall, A World Divided, 1961-1989” by Frederick Taylor might be the one to help you. And if it is/does, please let me know.

Come visit me at Observing Hermann…

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