During my first two years, I developed into a typical West Berlin student. I tried to discover the city and its culture, but to be honest, I only encountered the Wall when friends came to visit. As someone from a small town, West Berlin itself was so vast that I never felt confined. Apart from bizarre car trips through the transit zone to Berlin, life in the divided city was actually pretty normal.
But then came the year 1989, in which I felt continual changes taking place. I was interested in politics and that late summer, I followed everything that suddenly seemed possible under Gorbachev. The Monday demonstrations, GDR citizens in the Hungarian embassy – suddenly everything was different. And then it was the early evening of November 9. I heard the words of Günter Schabowski on TV, along with those of a journalist asking when the regulation would come into effect, with Schabowski clumsily rustling through his papers, searching for an answer... Although I heard every word, the content and the possible implications didn’t reach my brain. The status quo of the divided city was so firmly anchored in my consciousness that I didn’t stop to think about the news and went off to play tennis. When I came back hours later and turned on the TV again, I saw excited SFB journalists reporting from the border crossings, which hadn’t been opened yet. Suddenly the images of GDR citizens streaming into the West finally reached my brain cells. Today I still have to smile at my reaction and realize that although I heard Schabowski’s words, I didn’t really understand the possible consequences.
© ullstein bild / Hensel