Wednesday 21st February 2007 by C. Freeman
The Berlin Wall was an infamous icon of the 20th century which divided families and communities for 28 years. Students were treated to a potted history of post-World War Two Berlin during a series of assemblies this term. Head of Modern Languages, Mr Robert Nicholls gave an insight into the conditions in the divided city, the escape attempts and the aftermath since the wall was demolished in 1989. Hundreds of people were shot trying to get out of East Berlin yet some audacious plots were successful, including one woman who was sewn into a car seat, then driven across the border to safety. A man even transported his girlfriend out in two suitcases!
Now, 18 years after the Wall came down Berlin has been 'westernised.' There was a massive backlash against the East German way of life. The Trabant cars were left to rust, textbooks were rewritten, and food, clothes and wine were all considered inferior to the newly available West German goods. There was just one exception to the wholesale sweeping away of East German culture… the striding, purposeful figure of traffic light man, the Ampelmann. The symbol, used on street crossings was viewed so nostalgically by East Germans and cut such an individual figure when compared with anonymous crossing figures from across Europe that huge protests were set up when the authorities wanted to do away with him and use a standard European version. Public opinion won the day and, even now, the reprieved Ampelmann can be seen on street corners in what was once a divided and secretive city.