After the Wall: A World United Premieres on PBS, January 17, 2011
All right, Pink Floyd fans, don’t get excited. On Monday, January 17, PBS stations will premiere After the Wall: A World United at 10 p.m. ET (check local listings). This documentary is in no way related to The Wall, Pink Floyd’s hugely successful album. Instead it details the opening and fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and 1990, chronicling the diplomatic efforts it triggered and the social changes experienced by both East and West Germans.
The behind-the-scenes political machinations are fascinating, but even more interesting is the reaction of individuals. People in West Berlin were afraid that the housing shortage would be exacerbated and there wouldn't be enough jobs; when the East Germans arrived in Berlin, some consumer goods flew off store shelves—among the first to go were fresh fruit and porn.
Sharing their memories of this historic—and in some ways surprising—event are George H.W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, James Baker, Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev, policy advisors from several countries, analysts, East German dissidents, historians, and citizens.
It would be nice to think that the wall came down, and life went on—not as usual, but better—however, that wasn’t the case. State-owned business in East Germany were sold and eventually closed, causing massive job losses. The East German landscape was devastated due to years of exploitation and neglect. German reunification meant that those from the East and the West experienced major changes in their lives, not all of which were good.
While reunification happened in a matter of months, instead of the ten years expected, adaptation was a much longer process, one which is not quite complete.
Filmmaker Eric Stange pulls the story of that tumultuous time together, shedding light on diplomacy, politics, and human nature. Some of the most effective moments are scenes of East Berliners invading Stasi headquarters, and the recollections and filmed record of what they found.
After the Wall: A World United is a presentation of HoustonPBS/Channel 8, and offers an examination of “how a unique partnership among three leaders ended the Cold War.” Unless you were an insider, much of the program will be a surprise.