Sunday 9 November 2014


Berlin border-crossings, for the day that's in it.  On this night, 25 years ago, late on 9th November 1989, the border crossings between East and West Berlin were opened and Oststaatler/Ossis could freely travel to see the bright lights and conspicuous consumption of The West. Jeder und sein Hund weiß, dass Oberstleutnant Harald Jäger was i/c the gate at Bornholmer Straße and opened it rather than have people, including the men under his command, crushed in the press. The Stasi border guards had been told a few days before that shooting was no longer an acceptable way of regulating traffic. Jäger even ghost-wrote a book about it called Der Mann, der die Mauer öffnete.
But careful research, such as you can expect on Der Blob, suggests that he had been pre-empted by several hours when Oberst Heinz Schäfer threw open the back door in the West Berlin perimeter at Waltersdorf Chaussee/Rudow Chaussee [R shown in all its bleakness in the early days] which served as a transit point to Flughafen Berlin Schönefeld, the main airport for East Berlin. The only people who used the WC/RC crossing were busloads of Western tourists looking for cheap flights and the gap in the perimeter was poorly served for pedestrian traffic. It therefore took a good while for the trickle of Ossis to get back up to the city centre to greet their compatriots as they came through the wall into a storm of television cameras. Schäfer's story has, for me, the ring of truth because he didn't brag about it. Indeed the story only trickled out because he was interviewed by some schoolgirls carrying out a living oral history project.

Dau.II has been home this weekend and we were talking about how her 89 y.o. grandfather has recently been taking himself on the bus into a day-centre twice a week.  He gets there early and stays for his dinner and then treks home again on the bus.  He could stay all afternoon playing cards with the other old buffers but he has no time for such trifling occupations. Apparently, before lunch the centre puts on entertainment, a bit of music to dance to (they're not all hirpling around with zimmer frames), or some trad music.  Dau.II thought they might invite a local historian in the give a talk about the old days in Waterford.  But I suggested that the old folks were history themselves and it would be mutually beneficial for some teenagers to go visit and record what the out-going generation had to say.  Who's know what revisionist history might get exposed to day-light?

The other thing that's been reported this weekend is that the streets of West Berlin were knee-deep in litter from MacDonalds and similar outlets as the Ossis, who had no Deutschmarks, were treated to junk-food by their well-heeled neighbours.  There had been a long tradition of this sort of thing because a trickle of people [pensioners, the bereaved etc.] had made trips West but currency control was strictly enforced.  The Bundesrepublik had for years allocated subventions to visitors from the DDR which they called Begrüßungsgeld - greeting money.  In the West it's all about money.

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