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Anniversary of the fall: UC to host international research conference on Berlin Wall this fall

University of Cincinnati

Twenty years after its stunning fall captivated Europe and the rest of the world, the Berlin Wall will take center stage again this fall. In Cincinnati, the 20th anniversary will be bolstered by two major events: an international research conference at the University of Cincinnati and the unveiling of a permanent display of a section of the wall in Cincinnati.

UC has been designated by the German Embassy as one of only a handful of collegiate partners in the "Freedom Without Walls" celebration, and the highlight event on campus will be the research conference, "November 9, 1989 - The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Twenty Years After."

Scholars will be presenting at UC on Nov. 8-9 from more than 20 U.S. universities and from institutions as far away as Germany, Great Britain and Hungary.

"It seems hard to believe that it has been 20 years already since these historic events," says Richard Schade, a UC professor of German Studies and an honorary consul of Germany, who is helping to organize a number of events in Cincinnati related to the anniversary. "In 1989, I was in Berlin during the fall of the wall, and I can tell you I was moved to tears at witnessing the celebration. It was a great world historic moment, and if you cared about Germany, you understood what the fall of the wall meant."

Putting everything that has happened since that moment into perspective is one of the goals of the conference, which is being organized by Professor of German Studies Katharina Gerstenberger and Associate Professor of English Jana Evans Braziel.

Topics to be explored include the difficulties in overcoming divisions between the former states of East Germany and West Germany and what the fall of the wall meant to the strategic power balance in all of Europe. Other panels will deal with topics such as how areas like architecture and the performing arts have been impacted.

Four keynote speakers who will present at the conference include:

  • Sander L. Gilman of Emory University
  • Josef Joffe of Stanford University and founding editor and publisher of Hamburg's Die Zeit
  • Saskia Sassen of Columbia University
  • James Sheehan of Stanford University

Schade is also working with officials to finalize details on the permanent display of a segment of the Berlin Wall in Cincinnati.

The 13-foot-high by 4-foot-wide segment weighs 2.5 tons and has already begun its journey to Cincinnati. It is currently in Norfolk, Va. Shipping was donated by the Cincinnati firm of Thyssenkrupt-Bilstein, an auto parts manufacturer.

Final details as to where the segment will be put on display are still being determined by city officials. Schade hopes that a formal dedication of the Berlin Wall segment can take place on Oct. 3, which is German Unity Day - the day in 1991 when East and West Germany officially became one nation.

Other events celebrating the Berlin Wall anniversary planned for the fall include:

  • In September, an exhibit on the fall of the Berlin Wall will open at UC's Langsam Library. It will run through December.
  • On Oct. 7, a commemorative all-Beethoven concert will be presented at UC's College-Conservatory of Music.
  • Also on Oct. 7, UC's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute will offer "The Rise & Fall of the Berlin Wall" as part of its "Wow Wednesday" series.
  • As part of UC's International Education week activities in November, a film festival will feature four films, all themed around Berlin.

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