Friday, February 22, 2008
I visited East Germany once. It was a scary, yet fascinating place. On the border you were treated like a felon: Your passport was taken away for a while, extensive searches, drawn guns.
My most memorable moment? Standing on a platform in West-Berlin, looking over the Wall to the other side. While West-Germans were able to touch the wall, spraypaint it, damage it; East-Germans had to stay away at least 150 feet, the Dead Zone (as they called it) filled with landmines and automatic machine guns. Looking over the wall, seeing East Germans in the distance living their lives reminded me of a zoo or some exhibit: We can do whatever we want, they are trapped in their dreary existence forever.
I grew up with the wall being part of life. It was there before I was born, it will be there when I'm gone. Many people of my generation cried when the wall came down. But we didn't want to reunite with East Germany. They were strangers to us. I had so much more in common with Dutch, Australian or American citizen. Nothing in common with East Germans. Yes, the language. Well, not really. Their language was different. Old, dusty, depressing.
I'm glad I was in the minority. My wife and I went back to Berlin a few years ago and it was so inspiring to feel the heart of Berlin beating in the eastern part. That's where innovation and ideas come from. Berlin is one of the few European cities I could live in. So much energy, so much drive.
Above pictures are from Thomas Steinert, an East German photographer. He was not a communist but he believed in his country's strength, hoping that one day people would look at his pictures and say: "We made it through these times." Instead, these images are a historic document to a country and societal experiment that failed miserably. A testament to a time when ideologies and processes were more important than humanity. These human insights into an inhumane time make these images so powerful.
See the rest here.