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Replica, Lectures Mark Fall of Berlin Wall

November 3, 2009 – Many Georgetown undergraduates weren’t even born when the Berlin Wall fell on Nov 9, 1989. But many will get a chance to revisit the historic event by participating in Freedom Without Walls, Nov. 6-13.

The event commemorates the 1989 event that ended the Cold War and reunified Germany after 28 years.

Astrid Weigert, visiting assistant professor of German, says some students may have not been exposed to the sheer heartache caused by the Berlin Wall, which for decades split families on either side of the structure.

“That’s why we’re starting these events with rebuilding sections of the wall in Red Square,” says Weigert. “By having to walk around the replica, students will have a physical reminder of the wall and how it hindered access for millions of people. It helps us start asking, what did it mean to live in East Germany?”

Help ‘Rebuild’ the Wall

Freedom Without Walls organizers have invited the larger university community to help build the replica throughout the afternoon of Nov. 6.

Georgetown, along with about 20 other U.S. colleges and universities, staged the 20th anniversary with help from the German Embassy.

“It was very important to us that this week also have academic components to it, in addition to all of the fun things planned,” says Weigert.

One centerpiece on the academic side is a Nov. 10 speech contest. German studies students will deliver five-minute speeches in German about how the fall of the wall changed history and still influences the country today.

Other Freedom Without Walls events include a photo exhibit; a lecture by German novelist and screenwriter Peter Schneider, the Roth Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Georgetown; and an address from Washington University humanities professor Michael Lutzeler about Schneider's work depicting the wall in movies, essays and books.

Learning from the Wall’s Fall

Weigert hopes the Georgetown community will come away with a better understanding of the damage inflicted by the wall and the rebirth of Germany. It's a lesson the professor has spent years learning herself.

“I grew up in West Germany, and for my generation, East Germany just wasn’t something that was discussed. We were encouraged not to think about it,” Weigert recalls.

Weigert was in the United States once the wall came down, and remembers feeling overwhelmed with emotion watching the events unfold on television.

“I had my own discoveries to make after that – I didn't know what it would mean for Germany to be one country,” she says.

The point of Freedom Without Walls, Weigert adds, is to figure out what that has meant for Germany and the world. 

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