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Three German lives transformed by the Wall

BERLIN, Nov. 9 (DPA / EP) –

Mario Mackowiak, Hans-Conrad Walter and Heike Kahl are three Germans among the millions whose lives they knew before and after with the fall of the Wall of separation between the two Germans on November 9, 1989; a phenomenon that forever transformed the history of Europe and sent German citizens on a journey marked by exchange, sometimes radical, between taboos and freedoms; between obligations and rights.

FROM THE SON OF SOCIALISM TO FACTORY MANAGER

Mackowiak, 59, recalls the “extreme hardness of daily routine” in primary schools in the German Democratic Republic, East Germany. “The classic atheist and socialist child,” describes the childhood of the now factory director. “During Labor Day we got into cars singing 'We are the young guard of the proletariat!', He repeated enthusiastically.

Three German lives transformed by the Wall
Three German lives transformed by the Wall

The man remembers with more bitterness what came later: his work in the steel industry of Keula, count began his professional training in 1976, and of which he is now in charge after losing hundreds of coworkers on the road, dismissed by the brutal economic restructuring that began in 1990 under the opinions of the Treuhand agency, in charge of liquidating the assets of state-owned companies in East Germany. His own wife went on to swell the ranks of unemployment.

Instead of the dismissal, Mackowiak found an unreachable offer a day before the fall of the Wall: the management of the plant, a position he has held for the past 28 years until, a few months ago, he received a proposal for early retirement to which he still does not know how to respond. “I have energy, what I don't know is what to spend it on,” he jokes.

As a resident for decades of the remote town of Krauschwitz, in eastern Saxony, Mackowiak says he will never live in a big city like Berlin, and acknowledges that he is still licking, with many nuances, the wounds of the economic failure of the GDR .

“I recognize that we failed to apply Socialism and the planned economy, but I refuse to reduce my East Germany to a cartoon of flag salute ceremonies, various secret police and wild anti-capitalist idology,” he said.

FROM PUNK TO CULTURAL CONSERVATION

For Hans-Conrad Walter, 49, the fall of the Wall was not characterized precisely by its pacifism. A month earlier, on October 7, he joined a crowd of hundreds of concentrated people before the GDR Parliament. Inside, Foreign Minister Erich Honecker commemorated the 40th anniversary of the country's founding.

“I remember that Stasi was everywhere. I remember that the police beat a girl who was next to me,” says Walter, who spent a week in jail after the demonstration. “For hipster,” he remembers. The difficulty of finding hair dye in ancient East Germany led Walter and his friends to experiment with hydrogen peroxide and medications to give their punk crest a vivid red hue.

About to turn half a century old, Walter says he retains the same energy as in his youth, as the owner of a cultural marketing firm. “I never wanted to leave the country, I wanted to change it,” he explains, still surprised by the speed at which everything happened. “I still believe that the fall of the Wall was a stroke of luck,” he understands, before acknowledging that the German reunification occurred with such force that many aspects remained unsolved.

“Especially because today there is such meritocracy and such pressure to perform in your life that we don't have time to deal with social problems,” he laments.

THE EX ATHLETE

“I can't stand those leaders who prefer to complain instead of doing something about it,” laments Heike Kahl, 63, a former Olympic athlete.

The librarian's daughter has a better memory of her childhood in the city of Rostock than of her adolescence in Berlin, where she began training in speed skating at age 14. “A new coach arrived in 1973. It was the beginning of a very hard time,” Kahl explains.

His mental stability mattered little or nothing in East Germany, whose leaders demanded constant success. The skater checked in his flesh the scourge of doping in the GDR, one of the most serious athletic scandals of the late twentieth century.

“After the competitions we were dripping. In the Winter Games in Innsbruck (Austria) of 76 there was enormous pressure to dopate me,” he laments. Kahl skated the 1,000 meter final. He finished eighth.

For the woman it was a turning point. He renounced the political system while renouncing elite sport. He paid dearly for both decisions: his expulsion from the Berlin Sports Forum, practically the gateway to the bureaucratic sports system.

The woman ended up reaching a higher degree of literary studies thanks to certain concessions derived from her sporting past, which earned her a position at the Academy of Arts, one that she combined with aerobics classes in a gymnasium in Berlin.

“I learned about the fall of the Wall in full class. I remember the euphoria unleashed, the collective hysteria, the general madness. I harbored my doubts,” he explains. Some of his friends were already under immense economic pressure. “I ended up working in a small publishing house for a few years until it closed. My friends started drinking in the mornings,” he laments.

Kahl is now the director of the Germany Foundation for Children and Youth, the work of her dreams, she recognizes, with no time for nostalgia. “I haven't even seen my Stasi file,” he says.

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