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Getting to know the Berlin Wall with Hannelore by Frederique Demeijer

Dear Hannelore

Since I've arrived in Berlin for my research project I have had 12 tours already about the Wall, but I would like to thank you again for allowing me to take part in your tour. It is amazing how many new things I still learned from you!

Here is an overview of what I've enjoyed specifically about your tour.

First of all it is clear from the start that you are very informed, and you make it as comprehensible as possible for the participants to understand how the Berlin Wall was built and why, and what it meant to live in a divided city.

By starting off from the very beginning you catch the attention of the students using a map to explain in which way Germany was split after World War II. This map was extremely helpful because we could see not only how Germany was divided into serveral occupation zones but also that the city of Berlin, being equally split into four sectors, was completed surrounded by the Soviet zone, which later became Eastern Germany: the GDR.

You then explained us that before 1961 it only took a simple walk to get from the Eastern to the Western part of Berlin, and that many people did so in order to escape the East. And that the GDR was forced to stop this if it wanted to assure its survival as a state.

I found this specifically good because you confront the students with this dilemma - stay or go. It makes this difficult situation all the more comprehensible.

Another remarkable fact was that you are indeed quite impartial, you throw light on both sides of history, without romanticising the East or giving the West credit. Taking part in other tours one often gets the impression that the GDR was the worst thing ever and that its inhabitants suffered endlessly. This is in striking contrast with what many former inhabitants of the GDR - those who were not, for any particular reason, in trouble with the Stasi - tell me: that they had not been unhappy with their life.

You mentioned this, and that is, I think, a very important piece of information which I missed on many other tours I had.

What I also found quite interesting to learn, and what I had not heard before, was the fact that there had still been some space to the West of the Wall that was property of the East. Likewise I had never heard about the phantom-stations, such as the urbain train station Nordbahnhof. This was also a very interesting detail. As you showed us an old map which had been printed in the East and left the Western half completely blank we all gained a better understanding of the extremeness of the situation.

Well, these were some thoughts about your tour.

Thanks again and kind regards, Frederique Demeijer
The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz 1989

Foto: 1989 © Wolfgang Fobo
email: Hannelore Fobo <halo.fobo@t-online.de>

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