UBC Okanagan remembers 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

On Nov. 9 -- the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall -- UBC Okanagan will host a roundtable discussion with UBC faculty experts followed by a public reception to commemorate the historic event and reflect on its significance.

The Berlin Wall, a symbolic boundary between democracy and communism during the Cold War, was the physical division between West Berlin and East Germany and its capital, East Berlin.

"The 9th of November, 1989, marks an important turning point in 20th-century history, particularly for Europe and Germany," says Claude Desmarais, Reichwald Professor in Germanic Studies, in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies' Department of Critical Studies. "It opened Europe to the East -- an event with wide-ranging ramifications, many of which have also affected Canada, for instance, in terms of immigration patterns."

Taking place on Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. in the foyer of the Fine Arts and Health building at UBC Okanagan, the roundtable discussion will focus on what the Berlin Wall meant to Germany and the world and how it influenced the course of history and helped shape the global community.

Led by Desmarais, the panel will feature Associate Professor Martin Blum, also of Critical Studies at UBC Okanagan, Associate Professor and historian Maurice Williams, and Assistant Professor Silke Schade of CENES (Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies) at UBC in Vancouver.

"The panel seeks to create an interactive, engaging forum for discussion and will encourage public participation," says Desmarais. "After the panelists briefly state their position, the floor will be opened to questions from the public.

"We hope that the spirit of the roundtable will encourage everyone to mingle, discuss their views and exchange stories during the reception, which starts at 5 p.m.," he says. "Many lives are marked by the changes in Europe since 1989, and given the sizeable German community in the Okanagan, the university wanted to host an event that gives people of all backgrounds a chance to share their stories and memories of the division of East and West, and of the Berlin Wall and its fall."

Students from Desmarais's Berlin class are working on a number of projects they plan to present and discuss at the commemoration reception on November 9, including a series of interviews with local historical eyewitnesses of the Berlin Wall and the division of Germany.

"This is an important event for students, too, as many of them weren't born in 1989 or were too young to have any memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall," says Desmarais. "We would like people from the local community who have actually lived the Cold War experience to come out and talk to students about what it was like, so they can access a type of knowledge and insight not necessarily available in text books."

For more information or to register for this free event email reichwald.german@ubc.ca, or call Professor Desmarais at 250-807-8635.

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