The Day the Wall Fell

UC Riverside scholars are available to discuss impacts of the collapse of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago

Berlin Wall

Nov. 9 marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Wall of Shame. Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart. No matter how government leaders in Germany and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) described the barrier dividing West Berlin and East Berlin, for much of the world the 28-mile-long wall was the most visible symbol of the Cold War.

On Nov. 9, 1989, after days of mass protests in East Germany, the GDR opened gates along the wall and thousands of East Berliners burst through in a joyful reunion with West Berliners that was broadcast around the world. Germans on both sides of the wall, separated since its construction in 1961, scaled the concrete barrier and began tearing it down.

Two scholars at the University of California, Riverside, are available to discuss the sudden collapse of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago and the impact on residents of the former East Germany.

Katja M. Guenther, associate professor of sociology
katja.guenther@ucr.edu

Katja Guenther is available to discuss the collapse of the Berlin Wall and its social, political and economic implications for residents of the former East Germany, especially women and youth. She has published extensively on German unification and its aftermath, and is the author of “Making Their Place: Feminism after Socialism in Eastern Germany” (Stanford University Press 2011).

“The collapse of state socialism in eastern and central Europe in 1989 transformed the world,” she wrote in “Making Their Place.” “International leaders hailed the dawning of a new era in which formerly socialist states were to flourish socially, economically, and politically. In spite of these optimistic predictions, struggle has marred the road toward long-term stability. Citizens of formerly socialist states have faced a plethora of problems including interethnic conflict, political division, economic meltdown, and soaring unemployment.

“In much of the region, women disproportionately shoulder the burden of the challenges of life after socialism. Women were typically better represented among workers in socialist states than in the capitalist West, but they have been consistently overrepresented among the un- and underemployed in many parts of eastern and central Europe since 1989. While postsocialist transformations have created new opportunities for women, especially for those with specific skills, women overall have witnessed the loss of state support for their economic activity, the curtailing of their reproductive rights, and the rise of traditional gender ideologies that value women primarily as mothers and wives rather than as active participants in the labor market and political life. Across eastern and central Europe, women have resisted these changes.”

Jeanette Kohl, associate professor of art history
jeanette.kohl@ucr.edu

Jeanette Kohl grew up in the westernmost part of Germany and was an assistant professor at Leipzig University, in the former East Germany, from 2004 to 2008. She was working as an intern in Los Angeles when the Berlin Wall fell and watched the events unfold on television.

“It was rather unexpected and came as a bit of a shock, watching it from so far away,” she said. “Having grown up in Germany and having visited the GDR on several occasions, it was a relief.”

Kohl’s ongoing research activities include collaborations with the Center for Cultural and Literary Studies in Berlin, the Huntington Library in San Marino, and the “Wegsehen/Übersehen/Versehen” project on phenomena of “non-agency” in Renaissance and Baroque art with the Freie Universität Berlin . She has lectured at the Universities of Vienna and Berlin, at the Design University in Schneeberg/Germany, the University Clinic in Basle/Switzerland, the Annual Renaissance Society Association’s conference in San Diego, and at the CIHA conferences in Naruto/Japan and Nuremberg/Germany.

She was awarded a Getty Scholarship and is a fellow-in-residence at the Getty this fall.

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