Monday, November 9, 2009

UNC-Charlotte celebrates the fall of the Berlin Wall

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2009 at 4:02 PM


Tonight, UNC-Charlotte’s German Club, German faculty, students and staff of the Department of Languages and Cultural Studies, will celebrate the reception of its current exhibit, Tearing Down the Wall. The exhibit - which features its own colorfully created wall - highlights the 20th anniversary of the fall of Germany’s Berlin Wall in 1989.

Creative Loafing spoke with German lecturer at UNC-Charlotte, Victoria Grimm, about the exhibit, held in room 126 of the Student Union. For more information on the exhibit, and UNC-Charlotte's German Club, click here.

Creative Loafing: How did the idea for Tearing Down the Wall exhibit come about?

Victoria Grimm: This year Germany is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. During a press conference that the government was giving on Nov. 9, 1989, a politician announced that it was possible to cross the borders. Then someone asked him “When is this going to happen?” and he said, “Now, just now.” People in Berlin just left their homes and went to the border and wanted to walk across. The watchmen at the borders didn’t know what was going on, and the people sort of forced them to open the borders, because of what they’d seen on TV. Before that, there were several demonstrations where people in East Germany were demonstrating peacefully for freedom of speech, freedom of travel and freedom of the press. This happened in the summer 1989 and it was such a peaceful revolution - the army didn’t use any weapons. It is sort of the happiest moment in German history and we wanted to celebrate that.

What kinds of things have been contributed to exhibit so far?

We got paper boxes and we painted on the boxes and put them together, to form a wall. We had our classes in there and we had people spray paint, and use regular paint, crayons and colored pens, to express their wishes, fears or thoughts - imagining they would live in a separated country. So this is what we have done so far, and we’ve also done a barbed wire fence, - it looks like barbed wire but it’s not, it’s some kind of styrofoam material - because at the beginning there was a barbed wire fence in Berlin.

Tell me about the grand finale on Monday, Nov. 9.

Monday will be the big day for us. We have people there from 11 a.m.- 5 p.m., for people to go take a look at it. Then at 5 p.m., we will have our reception. It’s a very laid back reception. There will be people present who experienced life in Germany. For instance, I was born there and grew up there. I was 10 years old when the wall came down, and I will talk about my experiences as a child. There is someone else who lived there for two years, and someone else who was actually present when the wall came down, who will also speak. So, we have different people who experienced it the fall of the wall differently. We will have some pictures of different documentaries running, and people can just have a look at what we did and what our students did. People can come talk to us and ask us questions about how life was there, how we experienced the change, and how is life in Germany right now. We’ll have some food and drinks afterwards too.

What do you hope students and visitors who come to the exhibit will learn as a result of seeing it?

The thing is, if you look at the history of a lot of countries, you will see that a lot of revolutions happened - The French Revolution, The Russian Revolution - that were bloody. You also had revolutions in China or the Civil War, like you had here in the US. But, in Berlin during this revolution no one got killed, although there was an instance when people were arrested. This is what I want for people to have a look at. It is possible that if unified people are against what the establishment or the government is doing, there can, in a peaceful way, be a call for change.

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