When the Berlin Wall came down
Twenty years later, the rest of the world is a different place because of that event.
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It took Al Qaeda's strike on the US on Sept. 11, 2001, for the world to turn its attention to the currents that roiled the Middle East. Now, the US finds itself in two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, battling terrorism – shadowy, stateless foes.Skip to next paragraph
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In the next 20 years, Scowcroft envisions a world in which "we're going to see the continued erosion of national borders and the increase in the number of problems that can't be dealt with by national governments [alone], like healthcare and climate change."
"I think the world is going to be less of the nation-state system of the 20th century and more amalgamated in the sense that countries will have to work together to deal with their problems," he says.
LOOKING BACK 20 YEARS, you can see how lives were changed, how history was made.
You can trace the history of modern Germany through the life of Jens Reich, a doctor and biochemist who was a civil rights campaigner during the last years of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
He recalls being a child in the final days of World War II, fleeing the Russians and Allied bombers, hiding out in the woods around the city of Halberstadt.
He remembers studying in West Berlin, the excitement, the freedom, and then – on the morning the wall went up – being stuck in the East.
"They sealed off the country and put us into a cage for many years," he says. "Young as we were, we were in a state close to psychic depression."
Eventually, he and his family would move to Russia, later returning to East Germany where they adapted to life behind the wall.
"If you had visited us in 1985 as a friend or an acquaintance, after tea we would certainly have gone to look at the wall, this atrocity," he says. "We regret that it could not [have been] abolished 10 or 20 years earlier when we were still young."
He was 50 when the wall came down. He ventured into West Berlin three days after the opening, walked through streets filled with trash, the leftovers from a joyous national family reunion. "Up to your knees, you were running in papers and bottles," he says. "Of course it was nice, everybody was laughing and smiling."
But 20 years later, it's a memory, sweet and pure. He doesn't reflect upon it often. There is life to live.
His wife, a doctor, is about to retire. He has one daughter in Germany, another in Nigeria, and a son in America. He has seven grandchildren, including three he calls "Bostonians."
If they ask him, he'll tell his grandchildren what it was like, behind the wall.
"For them, it is a long bygone period for which they have no real feeling," he says. "They ask, 'How was it?' 'What was your life like?' If they ask these questions, then the answers are always alien to them. They cannot imagine [what] life was like behind the Iron Curtain."
• Bill Glauber was a London-based correspondent of The Baltimore Sun from 1995 to 2002. He covered the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.