UNT language department to host events for 25th anniversary of fall of Berlin Wall

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 18:57

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Communism had been faltering in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland for most of 1989, but Communist leaders in the German Democratic Republic -- East Germany -- had insisted that the country needed a moderate change, rather than a drastic revolution with borders to Western nations open. It was a surprise to most citizens of East Berlin on Nov. 9, 1989, when a government official announced that "permanent relocations" could be done through all border checkpoints between East Germany and West Germany, even in divided Berlin.

Very quickly, citizens living on both sides of the Berlin Wall rushed to the wall and began chipping at the concrete with hammers and chisels. A huge impromptu celebration began as East Berliners stepped through a gap in the wall into West Berlin.

The University of North Texas Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with a series of free events in October and November. The events are funded by a grant from the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Washington, D.C.

The highlight of the events is a keynote speech Nov. 7 (Friday) from an American witness to the opening of the wall -- Kirsten M. Christensen, who was an employee for the U.S. State Department in East Berlin and worked in the U.S. Embassy.

Christensen, now an associate professor of German at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, was working in the embassy the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, and learned about the wall being open around 9 p.m., when a colleague who lived in West Berlin told her about the celebrations on the wall. After hearing that, Christensen started walking toward Checkpoint Charlie -- the nickname of the best-known crossing point between East and West Berlin -- and saw the jubilation.

Christensen's lecture, "Cigarettes on my Balcony," begins at 3:30 p.m. in Room 055 of UNT's Business Leadership Building, 1307 W. Highland St.

During her time at the U.S. Embassy in East Berlin, from January 1989 to May 1990, Christensen was under surveillance by the East German secret police. Last year, she acquired the files that were kept on her.

At Pacific Lutheran University, she teaches in the new program on Holocaust and genocide studies. She researches late medieval and early 16th-century mystical literature and devotional writings from Germany and the Low Countries, particularly from female writers, and also writes on labor issues in higher education.

Other events sponsored by the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures to commemorate the 25th anniversary are:

4 p.m. Oct. 14 (Tuesday) -- "Living in East Germany" -- A panel discussion with Cindy Renker, UNT lecturer of German; Dorian Roehrs, associate professor of German; and guests to be announced. Room 116 of UNT's Sage Hall, 1167 Union Circle.

2:30 p.m. Oct. 15 (Wednesday) -- A screening of the 2003 German comedy "Good Bye Lenin!" The main character, a young man living in East Berlin, witnesses the fall of the wall, but pretends to his ailing mother than the wall has not fallen, fearful that the shock of the news will kill her. Room 107 of UNT's Language Building, 108 Avenue A.

5 p.m. Oct. 22 (Wednesday) -- A screening of "The Legend of Paul and Paula," a 1973 film that is one of the best-known movies produced in East Germany. The film follows the love story of Paula, a blue-collar supermarket worker and single mother, and Paul, an aspiring bureaucrat. Room 176 of Sage Hall.   

4 p.m. Oct. 27 (Monday) -- Two UNT students will present their research on modern Germany.

Steven Collin, master's student in the UNT Department of History, will discuss "Aktiv Maßnahmen: Cooperation between the HVA and Middle Eastern Terrorist Organizations," focusing on the ties between the former intelligence service of East Germany, Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung, or HVA; and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Abu Nidal Organization and other Middle Eastern groups. He will also discuss operation changes in East Germany's intelligence operations after the Berlin Wall was built in 1961.

Dale Jones, a senior German and history major, will discuss "Dancing in the Dark: State-Sponsored Western Rock at the End of the GDR," highlighting the changing attitudes of the Socialist Unity Party of the German Democratic Public toward late 1980s Western rock music. He will focus on the outdoor concerts offered by Free German Youth, the party's organization for 14- to 25-year-olds. Room 107 of the Language Building. 

3-5 p.m. Nov. 3 (Monday) -- Exhibit of posters created by students at Denton High School and other high schools in the North Texas region, and by UNT students, for the 25th anniversary. An awards ceremony, with prizes given by the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and reception will follow. Exhibit Hall on the first floor of UNT's Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building, 1704 W. Mulberry St.

In addition to hosting these events, the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures is displaying memorabilia from the German Democratic Republic outside its main office in Room 101 of UNT's Language Building. The display includes passports, exit visas, sports medals, a uniform hat and medal from the country's army, newspapers and youth magazines and memorabilia from Free German Youth and Thälmann Pioneers, East Germany's organization for children ages 9-14.

For more information on the events, contact the department at 940-565-2404.

UNT News Service
(940) 565-2108