At this “meet the author” event (see previous “Steiners Geschichte” or “Il faut beaucoup“), three authors were interviewed about their books. These books concerned the fall of the Berlin Wall and DDR. They came from three different countries. This ensured three very interesting interviews, followed by a panel discussion, and made for a very thought-provoking evening.
Journalist Sophie Derkzen who interviewed the three, had just flown in from the US. She mentioned there had been hardly any articles in newspapers related to the fall of the Wall. In this EU member state, all newspapers and opinion magazines had brought out special editions, described timelines of events, interviewed eye-witnesses, discussed its after-effects. I presume Russian tanks being able to occupy your country within twenty-four hours, kind of heightens interest in what goes on “next door”.
The first author interviewed, came from Potsdam. Dr Hans-Hermann discussed and read from his “Chronik des Mauerfalls”, which is already in its twelfth edition. The Wall ripped his family apart, with some members stuck in the DDR; others – including him – living in the West. It is difficult to fathom what this must have been like. His book chronicles the events of the “Wende“, the revolution which led to the fall of the DDR. He was able to talk to many former DDR and West German power-brokers, as well as ordinary people.
Just hearing him read an account of how hours before the collapse of the wall, it was decided DDR people were allowed “out” to the West, but would never be allowed back into the DDR by the Stazi – so would become stateless, homeless, refugees: it was both hilarious in its pettiness, as well as deeply shocking in its cruelty. Nobody living in the West, will ever be able to fully understand what life in the DDR was like.
The second book, “Menschen, Mauer, Mythen”, is one of a planned quartet of books covering the same period. It is written by Dr Ewald König and rectifies a few myths surrounding the events leading to the fall of the Wall. At the time, Dr König was a foreign correspondents allowed to work in the DDR and in Western Germany because his home-country Austria, was neutral. He was at the famous press conference. He mentioned the Leipzig and Dresden protests and events taking place outside Berlin.
The third author, Drs Hanco Jurgens, wrote a book focussing on the effects the disappearance of Wall and DDR had on the Netherlands. According to him, the “Wende” had a great impact on Dutch politics, attitudes, world view. The country is now far more US focussed than a quarter of a century ago.
The event was hosted by the German embassy, which welcomed everybody warmly. Staff ensured there was plenty to drink and served a yummy buffet during the break. Of course there were Kartoffelsalat, Frankfurter sausages, German bread and much more. Most guests could not resist having two helpings of Käsekuchen.
After the break, the panel discussion between all three authors and their audience followed – before a book-signing session. During the discussion, many suddenly realised how this fairly peaceful revolution could have ended quite differently. There was China with its Tiananmen Square and recently, the Arab Spring. As the authors mentioned: peaceful demonstrations do not guarantee a peaceful revolution.
While loitering through a quiet night, I wondered how things might have gone wrong. The fear of those weeks and the speed of events had been forgotten. Everybody had said that fortunately, Gorbachev had been there, not Putin & co. Internet, mobile phones, social media had not yet arrived. Twenty-five years later, circumstances, chronology, events had faded from memory. The first book to read clearly was “Chronik des Mauerfalls”, followed by “Menschen, Mayer, Mythen” and “Köhls Einheit ünter drei“.
“Chronik des Mauerfalls” by Dr Hans-Hermann Hertle, Christoph Links Verlag, first published in 1996.
“Menschen, Mauer, Mythen” Dr Ewald König, Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 2013.
“Kohls Einheit unter drei”, Dr Ewald Köning, Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 2014.
“Na de val”, Drs Hanco Jurgens, 2014