Mon, Jul 28, 2008 - Page 6 News List

FEATURE: Some Berliners say they miss the old Berlin Wall days


The Berlin Wall had a 29-year history when it finally fell in November 1989 to scenes of unprecedented jubilation in the then divided city.

Now, close on 19 years later, it seems not all Berliners are happy about the wall being confined to the dustbin of history.

Every ninth Berliner would prefer the barrier which used to divide and encircle the city was still in place, a survey carried out on behalf of Berlin’s Free University showed.

Oskar Niedermayer, 56, a political scientist at the university, said that of the 2,000 citizens in Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg who participated in the survey this spring, 11 percent in West Berlin and 12 percent in East Berlin considered it would be better if the wall were still in place.

While the outcome might be surprising, Niedermayer said it was hardly a sensation. Only in East Berlin is there a significant change of attitude to be perceived, with 12 percent of those asked wishing the wall were still there, against 7 percent in a 2004 poll.

Nationwide, such sentiment was even more strongly expressed four years ago when surveys by two of Germany’s leading research institutes showed 19 percent to 21 percent in favor of the Wall.

While fewer people today dispute the causes of German unification, some “Wessis,” as West Germans are sometimes called, and “Ossies” (East Germans) still harbor prejudices against people living in the other half of the country, though apparently much less so than in the 1990s.

Then, it was not uncommon for people in the east to feel the former German Democratic Republic had been conquered “colonial style” by West Germany after the communist collapse in 1989 to 1990.

Nowadays, only in fringe areas of Brandenburg are such sentiments occasionally expressed among small minorities, the survey showed. In the west, on the other hand, a cliche often heard is that people in eastern Germany indulge in too much “self-pity.”

The survey, conducted for the university by the Forsa Institute, also pointed to citizens who were fully integrated into the socialist system and who were born in East Germany before 1973 as being among those most likely to want the wall back.

For years after the demise of the Berlin Wall there was discussion in the east and west of Germany about the so-called “winners and losers” of reunification.

In outlying areas of Brandenburg some 19 percent of people surveyed felt they were reunification losers, while 37 percent considered things would be better if the Berlin Wall and the former 1,120km inner-German border, once separating East from West Germany, had remained.

Only 3 percent of people in these parts regarded themselves as reunification “winners.”

The dismantling of the Berlin Wall first began on the historic night of Nov. 9, 1989 — to allow the ebullient masses to pass through to the west. But it was not until later in 1990 that the task of tearing down the barrier began in earnest.

Army units set about demolishing 300 watchtowers, thousands of lamp posts and more than 80km of metal fencing from around the city barrier. Later a private company called Ava was called in to remove 160,000 tonnes of still remaining concrete from around Berlin alone.

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