Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Berlin Wall for Kids

"Tear Down the Wall!!"

Many important world events have happened in my lifetime, but I have very vivid memories of the Berlin Wall being torn down.  I was recently out of high school when, on November 9, 1989, the leader of the East German Communist Party declared that the citizens of East Germany were free to cross the border into West Germany if they chose to.  That night thousands of people swarmed the wall and took hammers and picks to it!  It was such a wonderful symbol of freedom from oppression to see the wall torn down.  But, to be honest, I never really knew when or why the wall was built in the first place.  Here's what I learned...

After Germany lost World War II, the country was split up.  The Eastern side went to the Soviet Union and the Western sections were divided among the U.S., Great Britain and France.  Berlin was split in the middle.  The Soviet Union (what Russia and some nearby countries were called when they were Communist-run) tried to push the Western Allies out of Berlin in hopes that it would prevent the East Germans from leaving for "greener pastures".  The Allies weren't going anywhere though, so the East Germans declared that West Germany was a threat to the socialist society in East Germany and, in 1961, they built a huge wall on the border between East and West Berlin.  This idea that the West was a threat was not true, the real reason for the wall was to keep the East Germans in East Germany. 
from the Western side

The wall was effective but not at all popular with anyone.  By the late 1980's the Cold War between the Soviets and the U.S. and other Western countries was ending.  In a very popular move, the leader of the East German Communist Party declared that the people of East Germany were free to cross the border at will.  The wall was torn down and on October 3, 1990 the country of Germany was unified once again.

One of my first jobs after high school was working as a Customer Service Rep at "one of the major car rental companies"- I won't name names but it starts with an H.  Anyway, one day I was helping a nice German man with his car rental needs, I was pretty good at my job and did something that must have been above and beyond what he expected.  He was very pleased, and as a token of appreciation, he gave me (what he claimed was) a small piece of the Berlin Wall.  He said he was there that night and he took lots of souvenirs.  I keep that treasure with all my special things as a reminder that freedom should not be taken for granted.  Some people have to fight for the freedom we enjoy in America!!

My chunk of history.
The kids thought the idea that people were forced to live someplace they didn't want to was very "mean" and they loved the story of the people destroying the wall.  So we re-enacted  it with legos and action figures.  I should have put it on video. (ah, hindsight)

The "Communists" building the wall!!  Cutest Communists EVER!
East German side- note the armed guards and lack of individuality of the people. 
West German side- where people are allowed to be free and dress like Superheroes if they want to.
The wall is down and the people of East and West Germany are celebrating together!!  Life is good.