I miss the Wall. Shooting people was fun
`I'm providing a forum for some of those who were left heartbroken the night the Berlin Wall came down'
Thursday 11 November 1999
The BBC are more to blame than anyone. With their usual lack of balance they are giving the impression that it's a general cause for rejoicing, thus overlooking all the people who were devastated to see the old Wall come down.
Where do they get a look in? Here, that's where. Today I'm providing a forum for some of those who were left demoralised and heartbroken the night the Berlin Wall came down. Here, 10 years later, is their moving testimony.
"The day the Berlin Wall came down was the worst of my life. The end of the Cold War meant the end of easy plots for me. For 30 years I had relied on the enmity of Soviet Russia and the US to provide the backdrop for all my spying, lying and dying, and suddenly they were buddies. Well, you can't write thrillers about a nation spying on its buddy. I mean, it happens all the time, but you can't get a plot out of it. For a while I was reduced to writing thrillers about Islamic fundamentalism but, as Salman Rushdie will tell you, that has its own problems."
The graffiti artist
"The Berlin Wall was the biggest and best canvas I ever had. It was a wonderful chance to experiment with sprays and colour schemes, and wild lettering. Nobody stopped me spraying the Wall, because nobody liked it, so it wasn't considered to be vandalism. But when the Wall was being taken down, it had some of my best work on it. I begged the German Arts Commission people to preserve it on artistic grounds, but they said that artistic considerations couldn't prevail against the will of the people. What philistines!"
The East German builder
"Best job we ever had, building that wall. Our only brief was to build a big wall, no particular style, no bleeding architect nagging us to get the details right, just told to put up a wall so it wouldn't fall down, any style any colour. A builder only gets a job like that once in a lifetime. Course, we started to run out of materials in the middle, so you should have seen some of the stuff we put in - personally, I'm amazed it never fell down before it did. We always wanted the contract to take it down, as well, but the people took it into their own hands, unfortunately. Bleeding amateurs...
The Americans arms-manufacturer
"Worst thing that ever happened. One day we had an enemy we could really respect and a huge arms industry, the next nobody to shoot at. We've had to spend the last 10 years persuading the government to make an enemy out of Iraq and the Serbs and one or two others, which is a hugely expensive business, but no matter how many little enemies you have, it's never as good business as one big one. Know what I'd like? A little war against Europe, that's what I'd like. But don't quote me."
The East German soldier
"I miss the Wall. I enjoyed shooting at people. You'd wait till they got to the top, then - pop! Great fun."
The West German impresario
"The first money I ever made was operating a West Berlin observation platform from where you could look straight down into East Berlin, and I would charge foreigners and out-of-town German tourists to climb up and take a look at the forbidden land. They got a real kick out of seeing East German soldiers threatening to shoot us, and very often they would see people making attempts to cross the Wall and getting shot down under our very eyes. I don't think it ever occurred to any of my visitors that this had all been staged by me, with the help of a few bob paid to actors on the other side. When the Wall came down, I suddenly had to get a proper job. I still miss it a lot..."
The organiser of the Tour d'Allemagne bicycle race
"It was great in the old days before reunification, because the Tour d'Allemagne only went round West Germany. Now we have to go round the whole place. Terrible. Why terrible? If you'd seen the road surfaces they've still got in the East, you wouldn't ask."
No room, alas, for contributions from the Mayor of East Berlin, from a Kremlinologist, from a Trabant repairman, from the official supplier of drugs to the East German athletics team, and from many others...
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