Monday, July 5, 2010

The Wall Jumper

Peter Schneider, the author of The Wall Jumper illustrates the struggles between east and west Berlin. Before the wall was constructed, Germany was divided into two states without a physical barrier. There were many German’s that were unhappy under the communist rule to where they were fleeing to the west. The wall was built to control the people in the east which amplified disputes among the opposing states to where they were constantly competing with one another. Some German’s were uncertain and confused with which system offered the most benefits and stability where they could live a successful life. The western capitalist offered a society of individual freedom thriving on supply and demand; but did not protect the worker under the state. The eastern communist celebrated the worker to where there was a stable job for everyone; a consistent way of life; but no opportunity for advancement. Neither side represented the country the German’s once identified themselves with.

Schneider illustrated his struggles with deciding which side was more favorable. He was originally from the west, but also found himself in the east. He spent many nights at bars on either side where he met up with his friend Robert and discussing stories of formed riots, unsatisfied citizens, and people attempting to jump the wall. Schneider described the east as a dark, grey, and quiet place where everyone seemed depressed. As he walked through the abandoned train stations, he noticed the absence of advertisements and media. The easterners were restricted from being exposed to any media, which was regulated by the government. The Soviet’s controlled what they wanted the easterners to hear about the west. There was no freedom of speech or individual rights permitted in the east. They were under such strict control that while Schneider was visiting his aunt in the east, he was unable to converse with his cousin, who was a soldier, because they were scared of Schneider’s influence. The westerners made a mockery of the east. There was a time Schneider caught a taxi in the west and the driver persisted on telling him and eastern joke. They did not respect the wall and the capitalist used it as another disadvantage of communism, ‘being caged in by a barrier’. The west was full of jazz music, lively night life, media & advertisements; which could give a false impression on how the living conditions really were. He was annoyed with pompous attitude of some people in the west who thought they were so much better than the east. Some people learned to forget that they were competing against their own people. The eastern began to think their fellow citizens had abandoned them. It was the control of these governing states that were applying these doubts and disputes among the Germans. His life along with many other German’s was unstable. His relationship with his girlfriend Lena was on the rocks while she was slowly dismissing him. He constantly struggled with how to identify himself within a state and as a German.

Although many people were unhappy about the economical system they were forced into, they were also crossing the wall for other various reasons. Many people were trying to reunite with their families while others were simply trying to overcome the challenge of crossing this forbidden barrier. The German’s became obsessed with the wall to the point where it became an irresistible task of defeat. Schneider told about a man named Kabe who crossed the wall 15 times. He was considered mentally unstable for his obscene actions, but he was simply curious. The German’s struggled with acknowledging the wall as a mental and physical barrier because it was not always a part of their history. Over the 28 years Berlin was divided by the wall there were broken relationships developed between the German people. Today, the German’s still identify themselves as an east or west Berliner. They do not want the misconception of belonging to the other state in which they do not support their beliefs systems. Twenty years have passed since the fall of the wall in 1989 and there is still a mental division of the city.

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