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The Blue & Gray Press | May 27, 2018

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Students reenact Berlin Wall collapse to commemorate 25th anniversary

University Relations

University Relations

By SARAH GRAMMER

Students rejoiced at the fall of the Berlin Wall on Thursday, Nov. 6 as they celebrated the 25th anniversary of this historic event with a reenactment on the University of Mary Washington campus.

The styrofoam replica wall was placed on Ball Circle to commemorate the anniversary of the actual Berlin Wall’s fall on Nov. 9, 1989. On that historic day, members of East and West Berlin were finally able to freely cross the border for the first time since 1961. This was an important event in Germany’s history, as it allowed families and friends living on opposite sides of the wall to finally reunite.

Anneka Early, a junior German major with a minor in linguistics, is a part of UMW’s German Club. She participated in setting up and taking down the wall and also attended many of the German Club’s events held in the past few weeks that celebrated the anniversary, including a dinner in the faculty dining room later that evening. The purpose of the dinner was to “celebrate the fall of the wall,” according to Early.

The wall stood on the edge of Ball Circle to ensure that its presence would be noticed.

“We wanted it somewhere where it would be spotted easily on campus so students could get used to seeing it. Then when it was taken down it would be noticeable,” Early said.

Marcel Rotter, associate professor of German, started off the event with a speech that emphasized the importance of remembering the Berlin Wall and what its fall meant to the people living in Germany at the time. After he finished, Rotter released a group of approximately 20 students to demolish the wall. Many students witnessed the tearing down of the symbolic wall, but not all participated.

Junior German major Emily Gage found some humor in the event.

“It was funny because people just went running up to the walls and punching holes through it,” Gage said.

Early also said she enjoyed the students’ involvement.

“Some people threw their whole bodies into the wall,” Early said.

Though there were humorous moments, neither Early nor Gage took the event lightly. Both agreed that this was an important event, not only in Germany’s history but the world’s history.
Gage noted that she was excited to be able to participate in recreating the event.

“The Berlin Wall is a huge part of German History and to replicate it on our campus was really cool to be a part of,” Gage said.

Early agreed, saying that the demolition of the Berlin Wall was instrumental in reuniting East and West Germany.

“It was a big deal then for Germany to reunite and come back into contact with the rest of the world,” Early explained.

The re-staged event was planned not only to commemorate the reunification of Germany, but as a teaching lesson for students as well.

“We were hoping to raise more awareness around campus about the wall. Students here are part of a generation that wasn’t around to witness this part of history so we were hoping to make them understand its importance, ” Early said.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall was such a momentous event in history, Early and Gage said it was especially important UMW’s recreation was as realistic as possible.

Early described the parallel between the UMW community’s involvement with the demolition of the Berlin Wall with the actual event.

“For the most part it was realistic to how the real wall came down, it was a community event in a way,” Early said.

Gage, however, had a slightly different opinion.

“I guess it was realistic, but at the same time I feel like we weren’t able to encapsulate the actual feeling the Germans had when the wall came down because we weren’t separated from our loved ones for years and we didn’t have that feeling of freedom,” Gage said.

Universities around the U.S. hosted similar events, as well as major cities around the world. Germany celebrated the anniversary with thousands of lanterns lining the path of where the wall once stood.