We look at some of the major events that heralded the fall of the Berlin Wall, from rock concerts to the ‘Monday Demonstration’ movement that paved the way for major demonstrations such as that on the Alexanderplatz on 4 November 1989, as well as the disruptive visits of Gorbachov and Reagan to the divided city, and eye-witness accounts from people who experienced those extraordinary days. We witness the electric events of the night of 9 November 1989, and the strangeness of the immediate days that followed. Then we look at the aftermath of reunification: the ‘dismantling’ of East Germany, the plight of East Germans suddenly immersed in a capitalist world they struggled to orient themselves in, and finally the rise of ‘Ostalgie’, that curious longing for aspects of life in the GDR, often experienced by people who have never set foot behind the iron curtain! The Cold War remains a potent influence on our contemporary global order, as evidenced in the current war in the Ukraine. Exploring these Cold War stories is revealing of the shape of the world we live in even today.
Led by an expert on 20th century Berlin history, Dr. Lauren van Vuuren, this Conversation will bring to life the great drama that signaled the beginning of the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of one of the most iconic and globally significant events in Berlin’s turbulent history, that visitors from all over the world come to experience that traces of first hand.
About Your Expert
Dr. Lauren van Vuuren is a South African born historian currently living in Berlin. As an AW Mellon Fellow and then lecturer at the University of Cape Town she taught and researched across a range of subjects from the history and theory of warfare and violence, to representations of the South African and German past on film. In December of 2012 she came to the Free University as a research fellow in contemporary history, and encountered the most compelling world she had ever experienced: Berlin. Then, the sheer weirdness of the gloomy winter city merged with her understanding of its recent past to convince her of the utter uniqueness of Berlin as a place, and as an idea. Within a year she had permanently relocated to the city. Today she researches, writes about, and teaches on the twentieth century history of Berlin. Sharing the stories of this excoriating place has become an enduring joy for her. She is the recipient of the South African Thomas Pringle award for short story writing in 2013 and is currently collaborating with a photographer on a book of stories and photographs about Berlin.
This conversation is suitable for all ages.
90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.