November 9th, 2009

The weeks before the November 9th Fall of the Wall commemorations were filled with many advertisements referring to the former East-West division, such as T-Mobile’s ad slogan “Verbinden, ohne Grenze”, a few public art exhibitions, such as an outdoor installation on Alexanderplatz, and not too many other visible preparations. On November 5 there was a U2 concert at Brandenburger Tor (see pictures below) as part of both the MTV European Music awards and the anniversary commemorations of the fall of the wall.
November 9, the day of the official commemorations, was marked by heavy evening rain. Many people, including some that I knew, arrived very early and waited in the rain for the events to start. The main events included appearances and speeches by both older and contemporary key political figures and the toppling of a wall made of dominoes. The wall of dominoes was set up directly on the border that once divided East and West Berlin, running through main squares, such as Pariser Platz and Potsdamer Platz (see pictures below), and many others. Brandenburger Tor was completely lit up with flood lights and its foreground was used as the main stage, where interviews and performances took place.

It was fairly hectic getting to and around Pariser Platz because security measures where taken that closed off certain U-Bahn stops, such as “Brandenburger Tor” station. I was not able to secure a spot in the over-crowded region that was Pariser Platz (see picture to the left), but I managed quite well on Potsdamer Platz across from the modern glass-and-steel Deutsche Bahn building (see the picture of me below). The composition of the audience was interesting because it was mostly tourists and foreigners that seemed to have made their way out to the celebrations. As I stood in the crowd, I heard French, English, Spanish, and other indiscernible languages, but I do not recall hearing any German native speakers. The Berliners that I had spoken to earlier that day about their plans
for commemorations seemed mostly uninterested in the city’s planned events. My program director had plans at the theatre, my language professor was staying home, and some of the other students I spoke with at Humboldt Universität were relatively uninterested. Giant flat screens were set up for onlookers (see picture below), but the dominoes themselves were very difficult to see unless one was willing to exert enough energy to fight their way to the front. It would have been easier and more pleasant for the audience, if the dominoes had been taller so that people in the crowd could spot them and follow along with the toppling instead of just watching a broadcast on a screen. That said, it was actually very exciting to follow along as the line of dominoes was toppled down in sections.
The crowd got really involved with each countdown, as the first domino of every part of the line was pushed over, and the crowd’s energy level was relatively high.
The events were by and large marked by political speeches, but also by some musical performances. Prominent political figures present at the event were Hilary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Angela Merkel. They spoke briefly and then remained on the sidelines as the rest of the events unfolded. President Obama was televised giving a speech about unity and the strength and courage it takes to face problems. There were also appearances by historical figures, such as Michael Gorbachev, Miklos Nemeth, and Lech Walesa, the co-founder of Solidarnosc, who received the warmest applause out of all the speakers. The only non-political figures were three dissidents from the 3 former DDR who related their experiences. Their message was one of hope in the face of adversity and freedom for all. Musical appearances were marked by the performances of Bon Jovi and a male acappella quartet. Bon Jovi performed what seemed to have been a lipsynched version of “We Weren’t Born to Follow”. The
performance followed the speeches given by the political dissidents and seemed to have been an allusion to their
actions and integrity. Soon after, the commemorative events ended with the fall of the final part of the dominoes
(see picture to the left). The dominoes had been decorated by groups of children and other ordinary citizens. That,
combined with the fall of the domino wall, was meant to act as a reminder to everyone in attendance that the wall
did not fall on its own. Rather, that it was persistent work on everyone’s part that eventually triggered the collapse of the wall.
Daniel Alvarado (Berlin, Germany)