The Berlin Wall, built by the Soviets in 1961 to keep the East Germans and East Berliners from traveling to freedom in the West, fell on November 9, 1989.
(My husband Mitch and I have written a screenplay that takes place in Berlin right after the fall of the Wall and is inspired by historical incidents. You can read the pdf of the screenplay on Amazon Studios at http://studios.amazon.com/projects/34025)
Perhaps ironically, that day of November 9th in 1989 was also the anniversary of the infamous Kristallnacht, the night of November 9th in 1938 when the Nazis arranged a “spontaneous” demonstration throughout Germany and annexed Austria to burn synagogues, vandalize Jewish cemeteries and places of business, and kill and arrest Jews.
The Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, eventually led to the defeat of the Third Reich and the division of Germany into four zones, including the Soviet Union’s control of East Berlin and East Germany.
That division into American, British, French and Soviet zones resulted in my husband and I being stationed with the U.S. Army in Munich from September 1970 to May 1972.
U.S. Army troops and their families have been stationed in Germany since the end of WWII — originally to both keep the two parts of Germany from uniting and to keep the Russians from invading Western Europe. Today only the latter of the two missions is still relevant.
I have written TALES OF AN AMERICAN OCCUPYING GERMANY, a memoir of Mitch’s and my time in Munich during this Cold War period (for which I’m seeking an agent and publisher).
On this anniversary of the fall of the Wall, I’d like to share an excerpt about Mitch’s and my visit to Checkpoint Charlie, the American checkpoint between West and East Berlin. (Because of Mitch’s security clearance and because of my own security clearance, we could not go into East Berlin.)
Chapter 24: October 23, 1971
U.N. General Assembly votes overwhelmingly to admit Communist China and expel Taiwan from the U.N. — October 25, 1971
… I glanced again at the itinerary for the next day, with the optional tour (for an extra Deutsch Mark charge) to East Berlin that Mitch and I could not take. The tour would pass through Checkpoint Charlie and visit such places as “the site of Hitler’s wartime headquarters and bunkers, the famous Reichskanslei.”
The itinerary noted:
“Those civilians eligible to attend the optional tour to East Berlin must bring passport without Stauss Stamp. Military personnel must wear A-Class Uniform (green) PLUS be in possession of a valid Identification card. Cameras are permitted on the Eastern Sector tour and members are allowed to photograph most items of interest.”
The next morning when our fellow tourists embarked on the optional tour, Mitch and I went on our own to Checkpoint Charlie, the American-controlled crossing point into East Berlin.
Mitch snapped a picture of the warning sign in four languages: YOU ARE LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR; then the same in Russian; then the French VOUS SORTEZ DU SECTEUR AMERICAIN; and then the German SIE VERLASSEN DEN AMERIKANISCHEN SEKTOR.
From the checkpoint’s viewing stand Mitch and I peered into the dismal city on the other side of the Berlin Wall, erected by the Soviets in August 1961. The emptiness of the dark streets did not tell the story of years of Soviet occupation in the way that the exhibits in the small museum next to the checkpoint did.
The exhibits described how the Soviets built the wall in August 1961 and then the exhibits illustrated the desperate measures people took to escape from behind the Wall. Tunneling, jumping from East Berlin apartment windows before they were boarded up, trying to hide underneath the frame of a car as it drove through the checkpoint and other attempts that usually ended in capture and/or death.
The razed ground before the Wall on the East side consisted of barbed wire, tank tracks, hidden mines — all deadly traps for anyone trying to escape the workers’ paradise.
Part of me felt badly for the East Germans trapped in a Soviet nightmare. The other part of me remembered that many of these East Germans eagerly embraced Hitler and rushed to do his bidding in killing Jews, homosexuals, protesting clergy, Gypsies, and anyone else considered a blot on the master race.
Afterwards Mitch and I ate lunch at the Berlin Jewish Community Center — located at the site of the main Berlin synagogue destroyed on Kristallnacht.
Then we went to the Berlin Museum for the special exhibit “300 Jahre Judische Gemeinde zu Berlin” (300 Years of Jewish Community in Berlin) running from September 10 to November 10 this fall. How interesting that the exhibit’s closing date was the 33rd anniversary of Kristallnacht.
The exhibit barely mentioned the years of the Nazis and World War II. Instead there were paintings by German Jewish artists such as Max Liebermann’s “Self-portrait with Family in Wannsee.” The German Impressionist artist had the good fortune to die of natural causes in 1935, but his wife Martha committed suicide in 1943 just hours before the Nazis came to arrest her.
Of course displayed were Jewish ceremonial objects: menorahs, Torah covers, Torah crowns, Torah pointers, shofars, seder plates, kiddish cups, Havdalah spice boxes, tzedakah (alms) boxes, Shabbat candlesticks. Remnants of what Hitler planned to be an extinct civilization.
I reminded myself that, instead, the Nazis had been vanquished while the American, British and French military now occupied West Germany to prevent both a renewal of Nazi ambition due to a reunited Germany as well as to block the Soviets from driving their tanks further into Western Europe.
You can read my entire Cold War memoir TALES OF AN AMERICAN OCCUPYING GERMANY for free on Wattpad at http://budurl.com/TAintro
© 2014 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks, including TOP TIPS FOR HOW TO PUBLISH AND MARKET YOUR BOOK IN THE AGE OF AMAZON and the romantic suspense spy thriller CIA FALL GUY, as well as newly written books not yet published. She can be reached at email@example.com