History Professor Speaks on the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

November 21, 2014

by Helen Feeser ’15

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dr. Hope Harrison spoke to students, faculty and community members in Cole Hall on Nov. 19.

Harrison is a professor of history and international affairs at The George Washington University. She is also the co-founder and co-director of the Cold War Group at the University and an award-winning author. Her book explores the process of building the Berlin Wall and is based on her work in the archives in both Moscow and Berlin.

Harrison’s lecture explored themes in line with this year’s Big Question, “How do we decide?” She explored the decision process for building the wall, tearing the wall down, and even how to remember the wall.

The long decision to build the wall was “carried-out in a very controlled, planned way,” Harrison said. Beginning as barb-wire, the wall was quickly erected 12 feet in the air, dividing the city of Berlin in half.

The decision to tear the wall down was not really a decision at all but rather a mistake. A spokesperson incorrectly announced new travel laws were to be implemented immediately, Harrison explained. She joked, “Don’t go to a press conference unprepared.”

The memory of the Berlin Wall has varied over the years, as a newfound patriotism during the 2006 World Cup helped to create “a whole new narrative of a united Germany,” she said.

Harrison’s second book After the Berlin Wall: Memory and the Making of the New Germany, 1989 to the Present further explores the memory of the Berlin wall over recent decades and will be published in 2015.

Harrison’s lecture was the fifth convocation of the year to be co-sponsored by the Center for International Education.  The Center for International Education promotes events on campus that broaden students' global perspectives. The Center will co-sponsor the Doug Allison convocation on Dec. 1.