The Fall of the Berlin Wall
East Germans recall their experiences 25 years after the DDR’s slow death.
The extent to which its existence affected individuals’ lives varied. To find out more about how East German citizens experienced the existence and demise of the Wall, I carried out oral history interviews with 40 of them in the city of Magdeburg. Some complained that they were no longer able to watch the latest Hollywood releases in West Berlin cinemas. For others, the Wall did not just divide countries, it divided families; one woman found herself cut off from her twin sister in the West. Other interviewees, though not supporters of the SED, recalled the Wall with surprising stoicism, recounting that its construction was an economic necessity. Between 1949, when East Germany was founded, and 1961 around 2.7 million people left the country. Many of those who fled were vital to the East German economy, such as engineers and farmers, and could not easily be replaced.