November 9th is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. Here are the recollections of a GSC parent, who grew up in former East Germany and was in his early 20s in 1989:
In November 1989, I was a student at the Technical University of Ilmenau. We had keenly followed the developments at the Prague Embassy of West Germany, known people who sought to escape through Hungary to Austria and West Germany, and I had started to participate in the Monday demonstrations for an end of the socialist dictatorship. I was by no means part of an organized resistance; still worried what consequences open opposition might have, yet it was a time where one could sense fundamental changes were afoot. At the time, no one could fathom where they would end.
When the wall came down on November 9 we were all in disbelief. No shot had been fired, the Soviet occupying forces stood down, Michail Gorbatchëv (then President of the USSR) seemed to support the East German people against the ruling party, and now, the borders were open. Right the next day we queued up at the local police station to obtain a visa for West Germany as we wanted to see our relatives in Witten (NRW), though we certainly expected to return back home. After four hours my stepdad and I had the visa stamp, put canisters of additional petrol in the trunk of our Wartburg 353 to save our few precious Deutschmarks, and started the journey at around 4 p.m. .
This must have been the longest traffic jam I’d ever experienced – 10 hours stop and go across the border. The welcome by our fellow Germans just across the border was overwhelming. Every town we came through had volunteers with food and drinks for folks like us on our way to see our relatives. I have never again seen so much joy, excitement, and outpouring of support. At 3 a.m. we finally sat around the kitchen table with our relatives in Witten – happy and still barely able to grasp the change that had happened. – Frank R.