Memory: Paul Smith
Tiergarten Jun 29, 2020
I have returned to live and work in Berlin after thirty years. When I arrived in March the Covid 19 lockdown had already kicked in so, on my 6.30 am jog each day down Unter den Linden and under the Brandenburg Gate, I had these iconic places to myself. Berlin Mitte was somehow just mine!
Flashback to the few months that I previously worked in Berlin in 1990. It’s 2 October, and I am again at the Brandenburg Gate but this time with millions of others from East and West Germany as those two countries again merged, through the magnificently enlightened Treaty of Unification, into the single Federal Republic of Germany.
As midnight broke and 2 October became 3 October, Der Tag der Einheit and Das Leben der Einheit commenced. Brandt, Schmidt, Kohl were all there with other world leaders. The media was there in force in giant pre-fabricated studios erected on stilts around the Gate and, above all, German men, women and children who had previously lived on both sides of the now dismantled wall lifted their voices to the skies.
I particularly remember two chaps in their sixties, standing in front of me as the peals of midnight sounded. Both had been Ossies and were now, like JFK himself, properly ‘Berliners’. They hugged, and one said to the other, “Fritz, I’m an old man but this is the first moment of my life that I am free. My life has been oppressed by the tyranny of fascism and then of communism. What this new liberalism will be I don’t know, but I’m ready for it!’
Now in 2020 how one wishes that the whole world could metaphorically live ‘Under the Lime Trees’.