The Catholic University of America

Nov. 10, 2009

Nearly 200 Members of CUA Community Tear Down Replica Berlin Wall

  Students in yellow T-shirts - representing West Berlin - tear down the Berlin Wall replica.

On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, approximately 200 members of the CUA community - mostly students - brought down a replica of the wall that divided the German city for 28 years.

The event on the evening of Nov. 9 began with remarks from Hanna Marks, CUA associate professor of German. She recalled her years growing up separated from parts of her family. On one occasion, her family had to sneak through woods and streams to get to the east side to receive news of their relatives. When they made it to a safe house there, they were caught by Russian soldiers. A bottle of vodka persuaded the soldiers to let them go, according to Marks.

"I think all of you are Berliners tonight," Marks told the audience, echoing John F. Kennedy's 1963 "I am a Berliner" speech.

Great Room A of the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center was packed with people, including several who stood in the back to hear Marks and to watch "Ode to Joy and Freedom: The Fall of the Berlin Wall," a documentary about the 1961 construction of the Berlin Wall and the events that led to its 1989 dismantling and Germany's reunification.

After the documentary, students entered a darkened Great Room B to listen to clips of Kennedy's 1963 speech and Ronald Reagan's 1987 "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech. The speeches were mixed with the sounds of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," a piece played during a Dec. 25, 1989, concert in Berlin celebrating the dismantling of the wall.

Participants were divided according to the color of the T-shirt they purchased to attend the event. Those wearing yellow shirts represented West Berlin and those wearing red shirts represented East Berlin. The T-shirts were designed by Philip Goolkasian, a sophomore architecture and planning student from Fresno, Calif.

At the sound of Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" the lights in the room were turned up as students broke down an 8-foot wall made of cardboard boxes and papers. Separated friends found each other and embraced. The room broke into applause as the wall came down.

"It was fantastic," said Claudia Bornholdt, assistant professor of German and faculty adviser to the German Club, which organized the event. "I had tears in my eyes as I watched them jump to tear down the wall."

"This was a big historical event so I think it's important to learn about it," said Gretchen Davis of Severna Park, Md., a sophomore politics major with a minor in German. "It's fun to participate in but it gives you an idea of what it was like to really experience," she said before taking pictures with friends in front of the crumbled heap.

After the excitement died down, the participants enjoyed a feast of German foods such as bratwurst, German potato salad and pretzels while listening to music from the 1980s.

The event was co-sponsored by CUA's History Club. Students in the School of Architecture and Planning helped to design the replica. The Embassy of Germany donated pens inscribed with the words "Freedom Without Walls" and brochures about the wall's history.