Saturday, November 8, 2014

The 25th Anniversary of the Opening of the Berlin Wall

This is a genuine piece of the Berlin wall.

Painted on one side with graffiti, that perhaps protested the wall’s existence, this piece of the wall continues to remind me of the strength of the will of a people to be free.  This piece of concrete is the most dense piece of concrete I have ever touched.  Do you remember the effort it took to tear down that wall?
Do you remember why that wall went up? (click here)

You may be wondering why a tea blog  that focuses on Korean tea and tea ware would even consider writing a post on the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall.
I had personally visited both East and West Berlin as a student before the wall went up.  The Berlin Wall has always intrigued me.  It symbolized the great political divide within one country.  Its destruction personifies both freedom and unification. 
The Berlin Wall was opened by the will of the people.  Its collapse also signaled the end of the Soviet Bloc and their control of Eastern Europe.  The collapse of the Berlin Wall began a process equal in scale to the collapse of the Roman Empire.
Interestingly, the opening of the wall was triggered by a mistake.  The Politburo member Guenther Schabowski was speaking on TV and in error said permits would be issued for East Berlin citizens to visit West Berlin.  He should have said something like, “permits to selected East Berlin citizens would be issued”.  When Schabowski was asked when this would happen he answered, ”immediately”.  Guenther Schabowski was a member of the ruling Socialist Unity Party in East Germany who helped force East German leader Erich Honecker from power a month earlier because of mounting public pressure across the Soviet Bloc for reforms.
Harald Jaeger, an East German lieutenant colonel in charge of passport control at Bornholmer Street, saw this announcement and wondered why he had not been told of this policy change so he called his superiors who told him it was wrong and not to open the gate.  But when lieutenant colonel Jaeger arrived at his post at the gate a number of East Berlin citizens were waiting to go through the gate to go to West Berlin.  That number continued to grow and grow until there were thousands (He estimates that more than 20,000 East Berliners on foot and by car crossed into the West at Bornholmer Street. Some curious West Berliners even entered the east.)
Essentially to prevent people getting hurt lieutenant colonel Harald Jaeger defied his superiors' orders and let thousands of East Berliners pour across his checkpoint into the West.  Of this act today he will answer "I didn't open the wall. The people who stood here, they did it.”  This video from Tymachos shows what lieutenant colonel Harald Jaeger was facing that night.  This link is to NPR’s All Things Considered story on this event, and this link is to the rest of the story

It is too easy to say North and South Korea share a similar divide and point out possible hopes for unification in Korea.  Too many things are different and I don’t want to make this a political post more than it already is.
This really is a tea blog and this is a tea post.  While I have not been to Germany since that pre-Berlin Wall visit, I have several friends in Germany and a few tea customers.
One friend is also a customer.  His name is Frank Benjowski owner of Teehandelshaus Benjowski.  Frank, originally from East Berlin, established his tea house in Berlin just 2 years after the wall went down.  So this post is both a celebration of the anniversary of the end of the Berlin Wall and a celebration of the creation of the 23rd anniversary of a great tea company by our friend Frank Benjowski.  This link is to a page at Teehandelshaus Benjowski.  In the upper right corner you can select German or English.
Frank Benjowski has been on two of our Tea Tour Korea tours and has inspired several others from Germany to join us.  You may be interested in joining us too.
Frank Benjowski has a lot to be thankful for and perhaps the biggest thing is the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  Congratulations Frank, congratulations Germany.  Thank you for showing the world even a great wall and the Soviet Bloc cannot deter the will of people to be free.  The world should not forget this historic day.

For those who want to see more videos on the collapse of the Berlin Wall, here is another link on the History Channel.

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