Germany Reunited: What's Better After the Fall of the Berlin Wall? Opinion of an East-West Family

Today is a national holiday in Germany. Today, 25 years ago, the Berlin wall fell. Today, 25 years ago, families, friends, lovers were reunited. 

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Today, we celebrate the German reunification. A quarter of a century ago, a courageous, peaceful mob was marking the end of the cold war. 

The wall fell on 3 October 1989, about half a year before I was born. When I was little, I always asked my grandparents about their experiences, for we have relatives in the former East, in Thuringia. It was always a bit of a tough journey to visit them, so I’ve been told. The checkpoints were the worst. 

My grandpa managed to escape the DDR (the German Democratic Republic) shortly before they started building the wall. He was lucky - but he left his family and friends behind. 

He worked hard as a carpenter and eventually met my grandma. 

When my mother and aunt were little, they visited their relatives “behind” the wall frequently. Everything was so different. 

We are - or rather were - an East-West family.

The more “prosperous” West was better off than the DDR with its controlled economy. Fruit was rare, coffee had no taste, chocolate was awful - just to mention a few things my mom told me this morning when I asked her about her experiences, once again. She then said that they always brought things that the other family members did not have, not just food but also magazines, for example. Many things were subject to censorship. Everything from the West was considered bad - at least the SED (the unity party) wanted the people to believe exactly this. 

People who lived in the former East of Germany had less of everything and many dreamed of living on the other side of the wall.

What bothers me is the fact that many Germans still use the terms “East” and “West”. Certainly, you have to use those words in order to geographically describe where someone lives, just like some people naturally live in the North or the South of Germany. 

What I mean is the connotation of the words, especially of the term East. People nowadays, a quarter of a century after the reunification, still use this term to describe the oftentimes more, let’s say underdeveloped, Eastern part of Germany. It’s true that in some towns much work still needs to be done and people in the West are paid more than in the former East (which definitely needs to change) BUT we are a united country and have been for the past 25 years. There is no such thing as “East” or “West” Germany unless people really just use the term in a geographic manner. 

We are one nation, one Germany. 

And my family became one, again, as there weren’t two Germanies anymore. 

Here is what has changed and definitely gotten better with the fall of the wall from my family’s point of view. I can only imagine that others who have had relatives in the DDR might agree on most of the points.

  • Germans were reunited with their beloved ones without having to literally cross a border. 
  • Finally, after almost 30 years, people living in the former East had the freedom to travel whenever they wanted to without having to give a reason to go to the “West”.
  • Undoubtedly, the food supply was way better.
  • People could feel free and didn’t have to fear government surveillance. 
  • With the former came the freedom of decision-making.
  • Without a doubt, the quality of life improved. 

It’s a very memorable historic event that emphasizes the ideal of initiating great change in a peaceful manner, although I have only been told about it.

PersonalJulia BellComment