Department of Germanic Studies

"Cultures of the Berlin wall - from 1989 to 2019" An interdisciplinary symposium

Thu, October 24, 2019 | TBD

3:00 PM - 6:30 PM


24-25 October 2019

Briscoe Center for American History

SRH 2.106

The University of Texas at Austin


On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall in November 2019, the Department of Germanic Studies at UT Austin will organize a symposium to commemorate this historical event that in many ways links the histories of Germany and the United States. The aim of the symposium is to provide an interesting and diverse account of the history of the two Germanys, The Cold War, the fall of the Berlin wall and the transnational dimensions and US-German relations during these times and events. The symposium will combine scholarly talks on cultural, political and historical issues with a talk by Tyler Marshall, the former Germany correspondent of the Los Angeles Times, an interview with the American author Tim Mohr on the role of the GDR punk movement in the East German democratization movement, a film screening, and poster presentations by students of the Department of Germanic Studies at UT on various aspects of the Berlin wall’s history, its commemoration and its symbolism today. The symposium is for both an academic and a non-academic audience. 




24 October 2019

3:00 - 3:15 p.m. Welcome by organizers and Opening Address by Consul General Thomas H. Meister, Consulate General of Germany in Houston 

3:20 - 3:50 p.m. Jeremi Suri, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, UT Austin: America’s Vision of a “New Germany” and the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Although American leaders had long demanded the destruction of the Berlin Wall, they had done very little serious thinking about what would happen once the Wall actually came down. The leading figures around Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush continued to operate under the assumption that the Wall, and the division of Berlin and Germany, would last for many more years. In late 1989 and early 1990 American policy-makers had to react quickly to basic questions about the future of Germany, Europe, and the NATO alliance. This paper will explore the historical record of how American leaders worked with their European counterparts to forge a new vision for a reunited Germany anchored in the European Community and the Western alliance. The paper will analyze the far-sighted thinking about peace and cooperation in Western and Central Europe, but also the narrow understanding of deepening grievances in the former East Germany and Russia. America’s evolving vision of a “New Germany” was liberal and restrictive at the same time.


3:55 - 4:25 p.m. Hans C. Boas and Marc Pierce, Department of Germanic Studies, UT Austin: The German language in East and West Germany 


How can political ideologies alter the use, prestige, and political status of a language and its dialects? What role does a common language play for national identity? This talk addresses these questions by first outlining how standardizing the German language after 1871 was integral to the national identity of the German Reich. The second part briefly discusses how the Nazi ideology influenced the German language and its use between 1933 and 1945. The third part shows how different political ideologies in East and West Germany influenced the development of the German language, resulting in distinct lexical and phraseological differences between East and West. The fourth part discusses which linguistic differences continued to exist after German reunification in 1990 and which ones dissolved. 

4:25 - 4:40 Coffee Break

 4:40 - 5:10 p.m. Benjamin Wright, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History: Since you’re here . . . Studying the Berlin Wall through the Briscoe Center’s collections  

The fall of the Berlin Wall wasn’t simply a historically important event, it was an iconic cultural moment that captured the imagination of millions of people around the world. But those millions didn’t experience events in person—they perceived them through the accounts and images of photojournalists, newspapermen and television reporters who descended en masse into Berlin during the fall of 1989. The Briscoe Center is home to numerous collections that document the activities of American correspondents on the ground in Germany including, Dan Rather, Flip Schulke, and Rod Nordland, as well as the producers, assistants and researchers who worked in the background. Together they helped a generation of Americans to make sense of history as it unfolded. The Briscoe Center for American History’s archival holdings represent more than a century of collecting efforts at the University of Texas at Austin with particular strength in photography, news media, and national politics, as well as foundational collections in the history of Texas and the South.

 5:15 - 6:30 p.m. „Burning down the Haus” - the role of the punk movement in the end of the GDR. A reading with music with Tim Mohr, author of “Burning down the Haus. Punk rock, revolution, and the fall of the Berlin wall”. Moderated by Dr. Kirkland A. Fulk, Department of Germanic Studies, UT Austin


For full program please visit:

 Organized by Barbara Laubenthal and Hans C. Boas (Germanic Studies, UT Austin)


Bookmark and Share