20 November 2009

Over the Wall and back again

Jane's diary: Wittenberg, 20.11.1989
What a weekend! I was so tense on Thursday, the train to Berlin was late and I had to work hard to keep calm. Then to the foreigners' registration office at Alexanderplatz in East Berlin. Finally after a bit of to-do the man at the office gave me an exit and re-entry visa meaning I could go to West Berlin and come back to the GDR. I tried to phone West Berlin and it just wouldn't work. All lines engaged. It's been like that for days I reckon.

Walking along Friedrichstrasse towards Checkpoint Charlie I bumped into Christa Gengel (ecumenical officer of the Evangelical Church of the Union) and Keith Forecast (moderator of the United Reformed Church general assembly). Quite a ridiculous coincidence, the previous evening he had been preaching in Mansfield Chapel (in Oxford where I did my theology studies) and they had said, 'Of course you won't see Jane but if you do, tell her we miss her and give her our love'. Suddenly I felt a pang of homesickness for them all, miles away from German Sachlichkeit.

It was interesting to speak about the current situation with Christa Grengel. The woman who works with Christa looks well and relaxed, opening the borders really has opened people up. But Christa Grengel seems rather pessimistic about the way ahead - things are going too quickly, the church had proposed the gradual opening of the border and not the current free for all.

Were there any native Berliners in East Berlin at all? Everyone I tried to ask the way was Polish or Russian or from outside Berlin. Very odd.

Finally, after my interrupted evening I crossed at Friedrichstrasse, much quieter than earlier. So strange, the whole atmosphere was so different, much more friendly. It was so incredible to be on the S Bahn to Bahnhof Zoo in West Berlin. Then on to our friend Horst's where Stephen had arrived as well as other visitors from the GDR.

West Berlin was like I have never known it - but then it's never been like this. What an incredible atmosphere. All along the Wall people have their hammers and chisels and are making holes in it, taking chunks away to sell to the Americans - now the West Berlin police are doing their best to protect the wall. At Potsdamer Platz - what used to be the heart of an undivided Berlin, a new crossing point has been made, the Wall simply torn down. Nearby British solidiers are doling out free tea and coffee (a very British form of deterrence), with the East German border guards looking on.

A truly amazing weekend but at the end I had to walk back into East Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie by myself. Stephen came with me to the border and went through first but the border guards still wouldn't let him into the GDR. He came back out and said they had been much more friendly than the last time he had been refused entry but their records still said that he was "unwanted" in East Germany. So through the dark streets of East Berlin with tears on my cheeks to take the train back to Wittenberg.


Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Paperback history always makes it sound as though everyone was instantly set free, or whatever. Thank you, Jane, for capturing that moment in history when the wabbit had run off the cliff, but was still 100 ft off the ground, suspended in space amnd running hard...

Jane said...

glad you enjoy reading - it has had rather a lot of the alcohol and lust edited out but I am amazed at how much I had forgotten - but I remember the tearful walk up Friedrichstrasse from Checkpoint Charlie that day - that was hard ...

Post a Comment