30 YEARS AGO BERLIN WALL FELL DOWN BUT THE WORLD STILL HAS BARRIERS TO DESTROY

Text by: Annarosa Laureti

It was 1987 and two angels flying over Berlin presaged the reunification of the city.

The cult movie “Wings of Desire” (Der Himmel über Berlin) by Wim Wenders – winner of the “Prix de la mise en scène” at Cannes Film Festival – nowadays preserves the memory of a no-longer-existing Berlin. Over the course of the film the presence of an imposed wall silently lingers as well as that of an ideological and political conflict dividing the entire world into two opposite blocks.

Two years later the “Iron Courtain” began to break up, in the suffering heart of Europe, still paying the heavy price of a de facto war not ended yet.

Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders, 1987
Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders, 1987

For 28 long years, from that fateful night straddling August 12th and 13th, 1961, when the Operation “Rose” began, reinforced concrete blocks separated families, friends and acquaintances, which turned into pawns of a game between powers. A mistake, two misunderstanding words (“Ab sofort”, right now) – told by the SED’s spokesperson Schabowski during a press conference while answering questions about a future Wall’s opening – is  a real trigger amongst the exhausted Berliners on the streets.

The wall’s breakdown, peak of Gorbachev’s era, soon became also prelude of the collapse of the very URSS, occurred slightly later in 1991, as well as, on the consequence, became cause of “the end of the history” (according to the American political analyst Francis Fukuyama) and of the “Short Century” as teorized by Hobsbawn.

Berlin, November 9th, 1989

Muse of film-makers, artists, writers and singers (“I can remember/ Standing, by the wall/And the guns shot/above our heads/And we kissed/as though nothing could fall/And the shame was on the other side” David Bowie sang in “Heroes”, 1977), the Berliner Mauer, now sold in pieces as souvenir for tourists, with its fall literally changes our lives. The globalization, consumerism’s explosion and then the digital revolution, brought to a interconnection between communities that has never experienced before.

“How strange, nothing has changed” Katrin Sass argued playing the role of the East Berlin comunist Christiane Kerner in “Goodbye, Lenin!” (Wolfgang Becker, 2002). Although in the fiction the actress’s character is a victim of the trick of her son Alex Kerner (Daniel Brühl) – who tires to make less traumatic the discovery of the Wall’s fall to his mother awakening from coma, simulating DDR’s survival – after 30 years, it is sad acknowledging how such words do hide a hard truth.

Berlin, November 9th, 1989

We live in a world still studded of walls and barriers. Barbwires and reinforced concrete contuine to separate people and mark territories. Israel and Palestine, Syria and Turkey, Morocco and Western Sahara, Hungary and Serbia, USA and Mexico, Botswana and Zimbabwe are few of all the countries divided by a wall. As the American historian Charles S. Maier, professor at Harvard University, told in an interview “Today Walls tend to separate North from South”, rich people to poor ones.

Muro Israele Palestina

Human barbarity, incivility but above all political and economical interests remain the main reasons of the spilt of a world united only in the ether. The memory of what happened in 1989 in Berlin mustn’t stop at the mere celebration of an historical event. It needs to turn into a warning to reflect on the current global situation. Only the historical conscience together with the civil one could work as lifeline for a future, we hope, finally free from physical and mental walls.