Remembering the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Monday, November 09, 2009

Today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and WNYC and WQXR mark the occasion with programming throughout the day.

WNYC's Brian Zumhagen tells the story of Ronald Reagan's famous directive to Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," and reports on a mysterious quote attributed to Gorbachev.

The Takeaway talks to a West German who was in Germany on the day the Wall came down, an East German who was only five years old when the Wall fell, and financial historian Niall Ferguson who explains the event's connection to capitalism today.

On The Brian Lehrer Show, three authors of books on the fall of communism and its repercussions mark the occasion: Michael Meyer, Victor Sebestyen, and Romesh Ratnesar.

Leonard Lopate speaks with two of the foremost experts on Soviet and Eastern European affairs: Stephen Kotkin and Stephen Cohen. They'll discuss the events that led to this historic event and how the former Soviet Bloc has changed since the Iron Curtain was lifted.

Finally, at 7PM, WQXR presents a unique musical reminder of that extraordinary time. On Christmas Day, 1989, just six weeks after the Berlin Wall came down, Leonard Bernstein led a celebratory performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 at the Schauspielhaus, near the site of the demolished wall in East Berlin. The orchestra consisted of musicians from both East and West Germany. Adding to the symbolism of the event was a change in the music itself: In the final movement, the word "Freiheit" (Freedom) was substituted for the word "Freude," making it an ode to freedom rather than an ode to joy.

We've also combed through our archives and created an audio slideshow featuring voices of citizens who lived on both sides of the Wall, a montage from the Associated Press' correspondent reporting as the Wall was coming down, and former president of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Lech Wałęsa speaking at the time.


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Comments [3]

Wackel Pudd

Please talk about the mishaps in communication between various East German government agencies and the other coincidences that allowed 9. November to happen the way it did.

The German magazine "Der Spiegel" has a wonderful minute-by-minute account of the comedy-of-errors and lack of guidance that led to this surprising, unplanned event. While the system had been weakened and tired, it was this weird unintended unfolding of events that made this possible.

Talk, just a little, about the East German people in this German/German event and not only about what Americans did to bring this about.

Nov. 09 2009 12:14 PM

My ex, Shari, and I were in Negril, Jamaica, on vacation. Our "resort" had no radios or television, and we were blissfully shut off from the world. Our routine was to go out each evening to purchase fresh fruit juice for the following morning. At at the tiny roadside storefront we noticed some commotion on the small black and white television. We asked the storeowner what was going on, and in his patois he answered "The Berlin Wall, mon, it's coming down! The Berlin Wall is coming down!" My girlfriend and I looked at each other, incredulous. Man, go away on vacation, and the world changes!

Nov. 09 2009 11:32 AM

Interesting that we are celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall while we continue to erect our own.

Nov. 09 2009 07:42 AM

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