irene kacandes

25 Years Later, Remembering the Berlin Wall

by Professor Irene Kacandes

I’m an American child of the Cold War. The yellow alarm pole was next to my elementary school, and when it went off we practiced duck and cover. I had a repeating dream of a red monolith I knew was “Communism,” even as I had little sense of what that meant other than “bad” and “dangerous.”

I’m a Dartmouth professor currently directing the Department of German Studies’ Foreign Study Program in Berlin. For weeks now, local residents have been commemorating events that led up to the Mauerfall, the opening of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989. I plan to walk around in the city center and take in the atmosphere. I’m particularly eager to see the Lichtgrenze, literally “border of light,” a marking with lamp poles where the wall that divided this city long stood.

I remember the actual wall. I first visited Berlin on a high school exchange. I recall having cramps during the whole visit and being simultaneously intimidated and fascinated by the military presence, a presence I didn’t know about in suburban New York. I promised myself I’d come back one day.