The fall of walls

Original mural by Birgit Kinder, photo via

Here’s another anniversary: It was thirty years ago today that the Berlin Wall fell.

The Iron Curtain had been breached, the Eastern Bloc was beginning to crumble. This most cruel of social experiments had finally run its course. A peaceful revolution was under way, and there was no stopping this tide from turning. The world was evolving.

We may not have started the fire but we were sure fanning its flames now.

Even in a country as far away as South Africa (or especially in a country as related as South Africa), the developments made headlines.

Here’s the front page of the Star, South Africa’s leading newspaper:

Scan of the Star newspaper, Friday November 10 1989

Here are related pages 4 and 11.

We rarely bought the paper but I’m certainly glad I held on to this one for thirty years — because the next page mentioned another change: The first elections leading towards the independence of Namibia, an unofficial province of South Africa and a former colony of — you guessed it! — Germany.

An Ovanimba woman from the wild arid and inhospitable Kaokoland area is given instructions on how to vote. Picture by John Woodroff.

What little understanding of the world I had was changing. Parameters would be redefined. While the Berlin Wall was falling, elsewhere in the same newspaper there’s a certain individual suggesting a “new wall” and voicing threats of war if this revolution wasn’t a peaceful one. Yes, apartheid was slowly getting dismantled too.

As a matter of pure coincidence, it was barely two months after South Africa’s “first free elections” that I found myself in Berlin.

Yours truly in Berlin. Photo by Karl Gangl.

Here’s me standing on the east side of the Brandenburg Gate in June 1994.

Change was certainly coming thick and fast in 1989 because — lest we forget — earlier in the year this incident took place:

The unknown "Tank Man". Picture by Jeff Widener / AP.

It’s 2019. Germany has been reunited, South Africa has just won the Rugby World Cup again (under the captaincy of a black man), and China is doing its level best to pretend the Tiananmen Square Massacre never happened — while Hong Kong is on fire.

All scans and photos by hmvhDOTnet unless specified otherwise.

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