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When the Berlin Wall, which served as a "symbol of difference and division" between the east and the west sides of Germany, fell, it represented the culmination of changes in Soviet Union policies in the 1970s and '80s, Consul General Reiner Mockelmann told a small gathering at the Watson Institute for International Relations Thursday night.

Mockelmann, a retired West German diplomat and director of the Summer School Wust, spent most of the lecture outlining historical transitions from the Berlin Wall's implementation to modern issues in a "unified Germany."

"The concept of openness" which emerged under Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost — economic and political transparency — in 1986 and 1988 "led to major changes in Soviet society as well as profoundly changing East and West relations," he said.

Increased demonstrations, including a million people gathering in protest on Nov. 4, 1989, led to the final push before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Between 1990 and 1994, the Reunification Treaty was passed and the Soviet military left Germany, he said.

But, Mockelmann said, major issues arose even with the Berlin Wall's collapse. After the wall came down, many residents of former East Germany migrated to former West Germany for "better gross wages, salaries and lower unemployment rates."

Rebuilding former East Germany produced mixed results, as "older structures were saved and cultural heritage was rescued" but ultimately "the catch-up process ... stalled," Mockelmann said.

He said that to deal with ongoing prejudice between the previously divided regions, a "decentralized" approach must be taken. "There is no recipe to break down prejudices politically," he added.

In order to break down these existing prejudices and increase educational opportunities, he cited educational programs like the Summer School Wust, which was founded in 1991 in former East Germany by, among others, German Studies Professor Kay Goodman. The program brings English literature, theatre, music and increased opportunities for conversation about the culture to the region, he said.

Nonetheless, he said a "national pride" is now observable which "was not known in Germany before the fall of the wall," he said. "To be proud of a nation that was only partly known was difficult."

He concluded, saying, "The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago marked the beginning of a new era in history — the end of the Cold War — but a lot has to be done" to deal with current continuing problems between the East and West sides of Germany.

Last night's lecture marked only one event in the "Freedom Without Walls" series, sponsored in part by the German Embassy and hosted by the Department of German Studies. The 20th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall opened on Wednesday with a screening of the 2003 German comedy "Goodbye Lenin" and will continue through the weekend.

The anniversary has prompted reflection and commemorative events across the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently visited Congress, partly to mark the anniversary.

"The Berlin Wall is part of a much bigger picture," Sergei Khruschev, senior fellow in international studies and son of Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev, told The Herald. "If you try to build any wall, it is against human nature. You feel you are resolving a problem and you are doing nothing. You are trying to stop the movement of a people."


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