I have been spending a couple of days in Berlin doing the things tourists do — walking, eating, museums. Berlin is beautiful and clean and civilized. I have enjoyed all of it but what will always stay with me is the time I spent at the Berlin Wall.
Once several miles long, the wall was built in 1961 to stop the migration of East Berliners to West Berlin. East Berlin was part of the Soviet Union and West Berlin was capitalist. In 1989, following protests and demonstrations, the Soviets opened the gates. People from East Berlin poured into West Berlin joyful for their freedom and the opportunity to join the vibrant economy of the west after years of deprivation and austerity on the other side of the wall.
Walls and fences and borders are back in fashion. Among today’s wall builders are the US, Hungary, Macedonia, Israel, Spain, Austria and the United Kingdom. Like the Soviet Union in 1961, today’s wall builders are trying to control people who, like the people of East Berlin before 1989, want freedom.
I wish the wall builders would come to Berlin. They would see how history views walls that keep people from escaping violence and repression and poverty. They would see how taking down the wall has created a vibrant, united community.
Who would rebuild the Berlin Wall?