photography / documentary: berlin / tale of two cities
“It will take us longer to tear down the Wall in our heads than any wrecking company will need for the Wall we can see.”
Twenty years after mass celebrations at the Berlin Wall signaled the end of the cold war to people all over the world, the "Wall in people's heads" remains, just as German author Peter Schneider had prophesized in his 1982 novel The Wall Jumper.
Germans again find themselves torn between the opposing forces of wanting to forget and dutifully memorializing. Some results can be quite tone deaf: the razing of the Palace of the Republic. Others have created high-minded civic institutions: The Bernauer Strasse Wall Monument, the Hohenschönhausen Stasi Jail memorial. Often, they are driven by profit: Trabi Tours, a GDR-themed hotel, selling mass produced replicas of East Berlin symbols. And sometimes they are bound to offend: a Stasi themed bar.
Since 1989, a generation of young Germans has come of age without lasting memories of life in communist East Germany.
For others, the notion that their country vanished, gobbled up by its larger capitalist sibling, creates a powerful sense of nostalgia dubbed Ostalgie, a word play on the German word for East.
This Berlin travel reportage explores the commercialization of these nostalgic longings via an Ostalgie marketing industry, as well as the serious commemoration of victims of the former East German regime and the burgeoning revisionist movement of those who seek to whitewash its history.