In 1987, President Ronald Regan remarked: “Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
This past Wednesday, Oct. 23, Mercyhurst’s Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society (ELIES) hosted an event honor-ing the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall which occurred on Nov. 9, 1989.
This event entitled “The Berlin Wall: 30 Years Later,” hosted a panel of four professors from different disciplines who shared insights about the Berlin Wall in terms of politics or ethical regards.
Some even discussed their personal involvement with the day the Berlin Wall fell.The panelists were Brian Ripley, Ph.D., Political Science professor, Fred Hoffman, D.SC., Intelligence Studies assistant professor, Kathryn Duda, Ph.D., Russian Studies assistant professor and Alice Edwards, Ph.D., Spanish professor.The evening began with an introduction from Verna Marina Ehret, Ph.D., religious studies professor, about the panel and the background on the ELIES program.
The room housed many eager students excited to hear the stories and insights of the panel. Each section of the panel had about 10 minutes to share his or her insights and experiences involving the historical impacts of the Berlin Wall.
Ripley spoke first on the back-ground and historical context of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall itself. First constructed in 1961, the Berlin Wall sectored Germany into two parts of East and West and was famously referred to by Winston Churchill as an “Iron Curtain” throughout the Cold War.
The Wall acted as a symbol of rehabilitation after the violence of WWII. The west sectors consisted of France, Britain, and the United States, while the Eastern sector was inhabited by the USSR, making the division for Germany easy. The Eastern sec-tor is famous for being referred to as “A Rotten Tooth” due to the poor living standards and controlled lifestyles under USSR rule.
Following Ripley’s historical context, Hoffman shared his personal experience with the Berlin Wall. In 1988 Hoffman was stationed in Germany as an Intelligence officer and witnessed the wall open first hand from a pub in West Germany. He and a fellow intelligence officer helped East German citizens.
“I’ll never forget the people we saw,” Hoffman said. “I recall helping a couple get on a freedom train to attend a funeral. One of them hadn’t had any contact with their mother since 1961. It was something.”
Duda followed Hoffman in sharing her experience the day the Berlin Wall fell. At just eight years old, Duda and her family were living in Germany because her father was stationed there.
“All I remember was feeling the utter joy that an eight-year-old could comprehend that day. I just knew it was a happy thing and that was enough for me,” Duda said.
During Duda’s presentation, she shared both personal photos of her family and father in Ger-many including one of herself and her siblings standing on the graffitied Berlin Wall just days after the breakthrough. Duda’s closing remarks revolved around the reasons why she decided to study Russian and the USSR’s point of view for the Cold War and other aspects of conflict in the Cold War.
Edwards concluded the panel discussion with a conversation she entitled, “When the Wall is a Mirror.” Edwards heavily compared how the Berlin Wall is similar to the walls around the world today in places such as Africa and Mexico. She explained how history is repeating itself and how borders are so vague for so many different people. Edwards believes that walls are a tangible solution for an in-tangible goal.
The evening ended with a panel discussion highlighting the importance that the Berlin Wall played in politics and history and overall its legacy and why we are discussing its significance today.The Berlin Wall’s 30th anniversary event united many Mercyhurst students to give a real example of the historical and personal connections it has to the university and professors.