25 Years after the Fall – UNC Asheville Events Reexamine the Berlin Wall, Cultural Exchange and German Reunification


In commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago this November, UNC Asheville will present a series of events looking back at East Germany’s German Democratic Republic era and some aspects of Western youth culture that seeped through and helped build pressure for the opening to the West.

The series, which will take place on three Wednesdays in November, begins with “We Thought It Was a Joke!” – Personal Reflections on the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 5. This roundtable discussion will feature the personal recollections and reflections of faculty members Elena Adell, Eva Bares, Oliver Gloag, Peter Haschke and Regine Criser.

“I remember how things changed dramatically for my family,” recalls Criser, visiting assistant professor of German, who was a young girl living in the East German city of Neubrandenburg in 1989. “We went to Berlin and got 100 Deutschmarks in ‘greeting money’ for traveling to West Germany for the first time. It was a very different world, and my parents were very anxious about it. My parents lost their jobs, which was very common in East Germany at the time. But I wouldn’t be here now if it hadn’t happened.”

The series continues with two events looking behind the Berlin Wall at how aspects of Western youth culture had penetrated across into East Germany despite the efforts of authorities:

  • This Ain’t California film screening– This winner of the Best Documentary award at the 2012 Cannes Independent Film Festival looks at the skateboarder subculture in East Germany in the 1980s and today, using “skating as freedom” as a leitmotif to show life in the German Democratic Republic as it has been rarely seen. 7:30 p.m., Nov. 12
  • This is Our Party – Hip-Hop in the GDR lectureRhymes and beats, breakdance and graffiti excited the youth of the German Democratic Republic and challenged the state’s authorities. Leonard Schmieding, fellow of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. and visiting researcher at Georgetown University, will offer a lecture on how young people wanting to ‘break out’ of the GDR turned to hip-hop and adopted American black culture. 7:30 p.m., Nov. 19.

All three of these events are free and open to the public and take place in the Highsmith University Union Grotto on campus.

UNC Asheville is one of some 40 universities across the U.S. chosen by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to partner in staging events commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall. UNC Asheville’s events also are co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professor, the Dean of the Humanities and the Department of Foreign Languages.

For more information, visit flanguages.unca.edu.