American Studies
American Studies

Tear Down This Wall!

Fall of the Wall Public Commemoration

Mon, November 9, 2009 | UT Tower Plaza

5:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall  and the 71st anniversary of the “Night of Broken Glass”/”Kristallnacht”

Twenty years ago, in the fall of 1989, a people’s revolution shook the foundations of the East German State and sent shock waves through all of Eastern Europe. The organization of grass-roots opposition groups challenged the policies of the state in rallies and then in public protest marches that grew at an amazing speed despite the risk of brutal repression. This “Peaceful Revolution” led first to the departure of the hard-line leader, Erich Honecker, and to the beginnings of political reform, and then to the opening of the fortified border between East and West Germany. This break in the Berlin Wall, on the evening of November 9, 1989, which no pundits had predicted and no one had dared to dream about, led to the reunification of Germany in less than a year and laid the groundwork for the European Union and its eastward expansion. Thus, we celebrate the 9th of November as a day of liberation and the victory of the people over state repression. 

And yet, the 9th of November is a highly complicated date in German history. It is also the anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass or “Kristallnacht,” the Nazi pogrom against Jews across Germany in 1938. So this commemoration will involve a thoughtful reflection on the vigilance necessary to prevent this kind of discrimination and violence against minorities.

We propose to commemorate both of these events with a major student project on the evening of November 9th on the plaza in front of the UT tower.

The event will involve a hundred (or more) students. Each student will create an element of our “Wall.”  Each element will be a 10” x 16” white cardboard box on which they write or draw a piece of “graffiti” about something that they think needs changing in our world today (e.g. war, human rights abuses, violence, environmental pollution, racism, intolerance, etc.). Beginning at 5:15 p.m. students will arrive with their box and the organizers will help coordinate the “construction” of the Wall (by stacking these light-weight boxes in a line on the plaza). Then after some short statements by various members of the UT and larger Austin and Texas community about the significance of these two anniversaries, we will schedule a moment of silence combined with a candle-lighting ceremony to remember the anti-semitic pogrom of Kristallnacht and to point to the fact that more work and constant vigilance are required to achieve change and make the world better, more peaceful, and more just. After this there will be a brief transition to allow people to assemble in front of the box “Wall” and then to dismantle the wall as a commemoration of the “Peaceful Revolution” of 1989. We propose to conclude the events with a reception on the plaza. One possibility is that authorized student organizations could sell refreshments.

All member of the University community are invited to participate (boxes will be provided), but we expect our largest numbers to come from courses in the sponsoring departments and centers. We also view this as an opportunity for the University to reach out to the community and would like to open up participation to high school students of German in Austin.
This event is being organized by the Department of Germanic Studies in concert with the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, the Center for European Studies, and the Center for Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies. We anticipate several student organizations will sponsor as well.

We have reserved the plaza in front of the UT Tower for this event because it is a very public and prominent location and could accommodate the number of participants (and observers) we expect. In the name of the “Peaceful Revolution” of 1989 we hope to inspire the participation of many UT students in re-enacting the power of public outrage. At the same time we plan to use this very public and participatory event to heighten the awareness in the larger community to the problems of racism and violence in our contemporary world.

To amplify the speakers’ remarks we will set up a microphone and small sound system. We hope to accompany the event with some historically relevant music and with historic footage and/or images of the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989. For this we will need a laptop computer, projector, and one or two screens.

5:15         students arrive at UT tower plaza with their finished boxes; assembling of “Wall” begins

5:45        short remarks by several speakers

6:00        candle-light vigil and moment of silence

6:15         “Fall of the Wall”  (dismantling action)

6:30-8:00     reception on the tower plaza

Sponsored by: Department of Germanic Studies

Bookmark and Share