It was a typical November evening in Berlin. I was 19 and still living with my mother. At around 10:30 p.m., as we were sitting in front of the television watching the events unfold in disbelief, my uncle and his buddy Frank rang our doorbell. They were both very excited about the political developments and wanted to share this with us. At that time, we were living quite close to the former border crossing point at Sonnenallee. As we discussed the situation nervously, the question arose: “Shall we go and take a look?”
I must admit, I was scared. Having grown up during the Cold War – learning at school how to throw fake hand grenades, how to protect ourselves from the threat of nuclear war, and how to make a breathing apparatus from available household items – I had no doubt that the government would use every means possible to prevent undesirable behavior among “its people.” But curiosity prevailed. My mother and my uncle stayed home with my younger sister, who had no idea she had just slept through the fall of the Wall.
Off to the western side of Sonnenallee
Frank and I set off on foot to Sonnenallee, where a small migration to the West was taking place. It was by no means as spectacular as the images on TV, but it was still a journey into a previously unknown world. And so we joined the procession along the street. We were worried about what would happen if the border was closed again. Should we go back? Or was this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
One thing was clear: this moment required a memento! Unfortunately, Sonnenallee had little to offer in that regard – being full of residential buildings, warehouses, and closed shops. But then a condom machine on a street corner caught our eye, and I had the idea to try and obtain a souvenir of this special moment with an East German five-mark coin. The plan worked. We split the pack of four fairly between us, and are still pleased to this day about our accomplishment.
Our memories of that night remain clear, despite the fact that Sonnenallee was not the most exciting entrance into West Berlin.
This moment enabled me to achieve my life goals and to experience freedom. I was, for example, able to turn my dream of becoming a veterinarian into reality – a plan that had previously failed because I had not wanted to spend three years in the National People’s Army. So many things would have been different. I am therefore very happy that the border opened for good on November 9, 1989!
© picture-alliance/ ZB/Jens Kalaene