Berlin Wall significance recognized 25 years later

Students tore down a wall in the art gallery, but not for construction or protest purposes.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday Nov. 11, SVSU celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall through a demonstration of its own.

Associate Professor of History John Baesler organized the event.

The Valley Vanguard

Vanguard photo | Allison Bur

“The Cold War is something that is my interests professionally, but I’m also a German citizen and I remember when the wall came down,” Baesler said. “So, if you will, it’s my professional interest and my personal background that came together for this event.”

Before students tore down the wall replica, Baesler discussed the historical significance of the Berlin Wall. He showed a video of President John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech and footage of the fall of the Berlin Wall from a CNN documentary.

“The fall of the Berlin Wall launched the 21st century,” Baesler said.

Political science and history sophomore Taylor Fisher thought the informational component of the event was important for students.

“People of our generation know that (the fall of the Berlin Wall) was a significant thing, but they don’t hear the full story of it,” Fisher said. “It wasn’t just like, ‘Oh, there’s a wall, now let’s go tear it down,’ it was a part of those peoples’ lives.”

The Berlin Wall separated individuals from their families and became a symbol of the division between socialism and democracy. According to Baesler, at least 138 people died trying to cross it.

Baesler gave the Berlin Wall further significance by asking his history students to identify figurative “walls” in their own lives.

“I wanted to find a way to translate that experience that I had in 1989, and most students were not born yet when it happened,” Baesler said. “So I thought building an actual wall and decorating it was a nice way for students to think about what it means to have a wall that prevents you from doing what you want.”

One history class painted symbols for its “walls” on the Berlin Wall replica itself. The wall was also decorated with the names of young people who died trying to cross it, courtesy of the history club, and graffiti copied from the actual Berlin Wall by the art club.

Fisher was part of the history class that painted symbols on the wall.

“Our painting was of the debt that everyone acquires during college, so we had a stick figure and he was holding a bag and struggling and around him we put tuition, books, rent, gas, social life, and there were sweat beads around his head,” Fisher said. “It was cool how (Baesler) incorporated our class into his speech.”

Baesler said he hopes that the message of the event encouraged students.

“I wanted to show students that everything was possible,” he said. “Every people have the power to change history if they want to, if it’s the right moment.”

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