Falling walls

First generation Berlin wall, 1961-65

Tomorrow is the 28th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.* While different designs for border walls are currently under evaluation in the US, I like to think about this particular wall coming down, and what it meant for Berlin, for Germany, and for the larger world.

When I was growing up we had a German neighbor named Mrs. Schneider. My mom remembers her describing the way that she and her children escaped, swimming toward safety, with bullets landing around them in the water. I have a memory of someone telling me about a German clinging to the undercarriage of a car that was making its way through a checkpoint.

There are, no doubt, countless stories of people facing grave danger to escape repression. These stories remind me of what many people face today as they find it impossible to stay in their own countries, and must walk into the unknown to try to reach someplace where their families can be safe.

Couple asking a guard to throw their frisbee back over to them

Today and tomorrow in Berlin there is an international conference taking place, put on by the Falling Walls Foundation. Speakers come from around the world to talk about their research and their hopes for a brighter future. Among this year’s speakers are people talking about antibiotic resistance, poverty economics, climate change, robot-human interaction, global food security, refugees, the neuroscience of sleep, corruption, chemical pathology, and more.

The tagline of the Falling Walls Foundation is, “Which are the Next Walls to Fall?” I won’t be at the conference, and I’m unlikely to get much detail on any of the presentations. But I can be thinking about the walls I’m confronted with, and what I might do to contribute to their coming down.

Lights along the former perimeter of the Berlin Wall in 2014

If you’re interested in the context that surrounded the building of the Berlin Wall, here’s a 12-minute Crash Course World History video that talks about the cold war. We watched a lot of these videos when Ninja and I were home schooling in Spain. It’s plenty quirky, but conveys a lot of information in a short time.


Which are the next walls you want to see fall?


Berlin now marks the former location of the wall in various ways.


Ninja, Fiddler, Ginger and I in Berlin in 2016


*Nov. 9, 1989 marked the end of the wall’s role in keeping East and West Berlin separate, but the wall itself was dismantled between 1990 and 1992.


[Images: ramanmalash, tamaska and abookishworm at imgur.com, El Guapo]




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