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Berlin Wall fall: ‚It was like Easter, Christmas and NYE rolled into one‘




November 10th, 1989. Day one after the fall of the Berlin Wall. My American History teacher in Iowa, where I was living an exchange student, rushes towards me as I enter the classroom.

“Congratulations,” he cries, shaking my hand heartily. “Communism has been defeated. Your country is going to be reunified. The Cold War is finally over.”

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about the Berlin Wall

I smile at him vaguely. Germany has been a divided country for me as long as I can remember. The word “reunification” enters my mind without releasing any emotions. I sit and listen to my teacher explain that when he was in high school students used to practice hiding under their desks to be prepared for any Russian attack.

My thoughts wander to my friend in East German Leipzig. As I realize Matthias can now visit me, I become all smiles. I have to bite my tongue not to burst into laughter of joy.

My high school speech director suggests that I write a speech about the end of Germany’s division. I put together a piece and call it “And the Wall Came Tumbling Down” – like a song I once heard.

‚A truly incredible tale‘

In my piece I describe how inhumane the border used to be until on November 9th everything changed and people climbed the wall to dance atop of it.

“It was like Easter, Christmas and New Year’s rolled in one.” When I give the five minute long speech for the first time, I cannot finish because my speech director starts crying right in the middle of it.

She had never thought that she would live to see the Wall come down, she later says. Neither did I. I stand in front of her, unable to remember the next line of my speech. I enter speech contests and win every one of them.

Clubs in West Liberty, my host family’s home town, invite me to speak at their meetings. I have grown used to people in my audiences wiping away tears in their eyes when they listen to this truly incredible tale that has become so true. 

Domenika standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Photo: DPA

Newspaper editors call my home to ask me for interviews. They are keen on talking to a “real German”.

“What happened in Germany when the wall came down?” they ask. “When do you think Germany will be reunified?”

Of course, I answer as best as I can, knowing that although I am German, I am not the best possible interview partner in this case, having been away from my home country for the past few months and not really having had access to much more information than all the people around me in Iowa.

After having seen the printed version of one of my interviews, I do realize, however, that in some respect I will always be the experts, no matter what: The interviewer had asked me about my German family experiencing the aftermath of the falling of the Wall.

‚We hugged each other as if we were friends‘

In the published version I see that every time I had told him about something that had taken place “at home” or “near the border” he added “in West Berlin”.

Well, my family lives about 200 kilometers away from Berlin. My German home town is located near the border between the two parts of Germany.

After the wall in Berlin had been opened, the Communists in East Germany had to open the gates of the border as well. It is too late to to explain that to the newspaper reporter.

But I remember adding some information when asked about my home country about West Berlin having been an island under American, French and British influence surrounded by Soviet occupied territory – and Germany itself having been divided in two.

I am alone in Iowa. The most important year in my country’s recent history will always be a blur in my mind. I suck in all the information friends write from Germany. It takes an airmail letter a week to get from Germany to the US and vice versa.

“On November 9th,” I read in one letter, “I was in a bar in West Berlin when suddenly people from the East came in. We hugged each other as if we were friends who had not seen each other for years.”

Visiting the Brandenburg Gate

November 1990, Germany is one country again. A month ago, on October 3rd, the former German Democratic Republic was swallowed up by West Germany, forming the new Federal Republic of Germany: sixteen states, eighty million people, one government. I am in Berlin for the first time in my life.

READ ALSO: 14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate

I had wanted to visit before I went to Iowa but had not had the time. I never saw the Wall. And now there is not much left of it.

In their enthusiasm, people chipped off pieces on November 9th, 1989. After that, souvenir hunters carried away large chunks. Construction workers removed the rest. No traces of the division were to be left in Berlin.

I have arranged with Matthias to meet me under the Brandenburg Gate. The area around this gigantic edifice in the centre of the city used to be forbidden territory during the time of the division. It is not anymore.

Domenika and her siblings opening a gate in the border fence in August 1990. Photo courtesy of the author.

He hugs me tightly, saying, “It has been a while since we last saw each other, hasn’t it?” Yes, that was in another reality. We take each other by the hand and walk through the Brandenburg Gate.

I realize that I do not know whether we are going from East to West or the other way round.


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127. Sitzung des Deutschen Bundestages (14.11.19)




Im Bundestag wird heute erneut über den Solidaritätszuschlag diskutiert. Außerdem gehören zu den Tagesordnungspunkten u.a. der Masernschutz und die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit der deutschen Wirtschaft.




Deutschland: Autokennzeichen „HH 1933“ ist sittenwidrig





Ein Autofahrer aus Viersen hat kein Recht auf ein Wunschkennzeichen mit der Kombination „HH 1933“. Das entschied das Oberverwaltungsgericht (OVG) Münster in einem Rechtsstreit zwischen einem Autobesitzer und dem Kreis Viersen um ein von diesem beantragtes Wunschkennzeichen (Az. 8 B 629/19).

In einem Autonummernschild ist diese Kombination aufgrund von unvermeidlichen Assoziationen mit dem Nationalsozialismus auch im Land Nordrhein-Westfalen sittenwidrig und daher nicht zulässig, entschied das Gericht. Ob der Kläger damit eine persönliche Sympathie für das NS-Regime zum Ausdruck bringen wolle oder nicht, sei wegen der sich jedem Betrachter aufdrängenden Bezüge unerheblich, urteilten die obersten Verwaltungsrichter Nordrhein-Westfalens in ihrem unanfechtbaren Beschluss, mit dem sie ein Urteil des Verwaltungsgerichts in Düsseldorf bestätigten. Der Autobesitzer hatte dagegen eine Beschwerde eingelegt.

NS-Assoziation für „durchschnittlichen Bürger“ offensichtlich

Laut Gericht ist jedem „durchschnittlichen Bürger“ in Deutschland sofort offensichtlich, dass die Kombination aus Buchstaben und Ziffern als Abkürzung des Hitlergrußes sowie als Bezug zum Jahr der sogenannten Machtergreifung des NS-Regimes zu verstehen sei. Sie sei deshalb schlicht sittenwidrig.

Was die Auto-Kennzeichen wirklich bedeuten

Die Ausgabe von Nummernschildern mit offensichtlichen Nazibezügen wird von den Behörden in Deutschland zwar überall generell untersagt. Es gibt von Bundesland zu Bundesland aber unterschiedlich umfangreiche Listen zu den verbotenen Kombinationen. Während Kürzel wie „SS“, „SA“, „KZ“ oder auch „HJ“ flächendeckend verboten sind, gilt dies für andere Sequenzen nicht in gleicher Weise. So werden Nummernschilder mit „HH“ oder „88“ in einigen Ländern ausgegeben, in anderen von vorneherein nicht.




What does Germany’s planned climate protection package mean for you?





Less than two months ago, Germany’s so-called Climate Cabinet decided on the cornerstones of its climate protection programme. 

On Friday, the Bundestag (parliament) will approve a large portion of the laws necessary for its implementation. Only laws pertaining to tax changes will still need the approval of Germany’s Bundesrat (Federal Assembly)

The German government wants to ensure the country still achieves its climate targets for 2030. However, activists have said the measures don’t go far enough.

The following measures were due to be approved on Friday:

PLANE TICKETS: In order to compensate for the reduced income of the changes to rail tax, the federal government wants to demand higher taxes on airline tickets, with passengers who regularly take short-haul flights facing a bigger hit.


Photo: DPA

According to the latest draft by the Finance Ministry, the air traffic tax for domestic and EU flights is to be raised by around 76 percent, and for longer flights by around 43 percent. The Ministry expects this to increase revenue by €740 million per year.

The tax for flights in Europe is to rise by €5.65 to €13.03 per ticket departing from a German airport. For routes up to 6000 kilometers, an increase of €9.96 to €33.01 is planned. For further long-haul routes, €59.43 will be due in the future, almost €18 more than before.

The changes are planned to come into force on April 1st 2020 to give airlines enough time to adjust pricing, so it gives air passengers a temporary reprieve before tickets become more expensive.

CO2 PRICE: It is intended to make climate-damaging fuels from oil, natural gas and later coal more expensive – and aims to provide an incentive for the development and purchase of climate-friendly cars and heating systems.

In 2021, more than 4,000 affected companies will pay €10 per tonne of CO2 they emit, with the price gradually rising to €35 by 2025. 

COMMUTER ALLOWANCE: Germany’s commuter allowance (Pendlerpauschale) is intended to enable employers with a long way to go to work to reduce their personal tax burden. To calculate  the allowance, the commuter needs to know the length of the route and the number of working days on which the route is driven.

In order to compensate for the more expensive fuel, the commuter allowance for long distances is to rise for five years. From the 21st kilometre onwards there will be 35 cents per kilometre instead of 30. This amount can be deducted from taxable income per working day.

BUILDING RESTORATION/REFURBISHMENT: Those who take measures to insulate the walls or roof in their apartment or house, or renew windows, doors or heating, should receive tax relief for three years.

To qualify, the property must be older than 10 years. According to DPA information, the subsidy is to be deducted from taxes up to a total of €200,000 and will come in the form of a tax reduction of up to 20 percent.

This article was updated on November 15th, 2019.

READ ALSO: What are the key points of Merkel’s new climate strategy?




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