Twenty Years after the Fall of the Wall and German Unification

The twentieth anniversary of German Unification and the fall of the Wall gives us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning and the impact of one of the most spectacular and important events of the twentieth century. With the distance of two decades, how do we see the peaceful revolt against the Communist regimes and how has it changed the course of history? What has been the legacy of Europe’s Cold War divide and, in particular, what has the collapse of the Wall meant to unified Germany? To what degree do the effects of the peaceful revolution of 1989 still shape today’s social, cultural, and political reality in Germany?

  • November 2009  in a series of video clips the project invited scholars at Canadian universities to comment on the meaning and legacy of what happened twenty years ago in Germany and many other countries in Central Eastern Europe. The focus of their contributions is on how the fall of Wall changed Germany and how unified Germany has dealt with the challenges of the post-Communist transformation process. Focusing on the political, cultural, and economic dimension of Germany’s development after 1989 the videos all contend that the effects of what started with the demonstrations in Leipzig and the collapse of the Wall still critically shape current German society.

Laurence McFalls, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies, Université de Montréal

False Memory Syndrome and the Fall of the Wall – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

After twenty years memories of the dramatic events in 1989 have increasingly become projections by today’s political actors and commentators. Laurence McFalls describes how our recollection of the fall of the Wall is shaped by a host of competing and, at times, misleading interpretations. Framing it in terms of a false memory syndrome he suggests that the current festivities for the 20th anniversary tend to miss the essence of what happened in October and November 1989.

Oliver Schmidtke, UVic European Studies Scholar and Jean Monnet Chair in European History and Politics, University of Victoria

 Triggers for the East-West divide after the Fall of the Wall – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Even after twenty years untied Germany still suffers from an East-West divide. Oliver Schmidtke argues that one of the critical factors creating and nurturing this divide is a fundamental shortcoming in how the unification process was organized: German unification came about as a union between two very unequal partners. As a result, many East Germans never developed of sense of ‘ownership’ with view to the united Germany.

Kurt Huebner, Director of the Institute for European Studies, University of British Columbia

Economic Unification after the Fall of the Wall: Is the bottle half full or half empty? – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Twenty years after the Fall of the Wall the bottle can be seen as one third empty or two thirds full. Kurt Huebner argues that early wrong decisions locked-in the Neue Laender into a slow growth path of economic development and that it may need another generation to make the promised catch-up happen.

Elena Pnevmonidou, Assistant Professor at the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, University of Victoria

Questioning Assumptions about Gender and the Legacy of the GDR – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Elena Pnevmonidou, Assistant Professor at the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria, discusses the status of women in Germany. While the economic recovery in many East German regions is an ongoing process that still leaves many women economically disadvantaged, she argues that reunification has resulted to a certain extent in a questioning of assumptions about gender and femininity. East German women in particular have an important cultural role to play due to their ability to reflect critically on both the GDR and the new German nation through the prism of their very different biographies and resulting conceptualizations of gender.  

Mat Schulze, Director of the Waterloo Centre for German Studies, University of Waterloo

The forty years of the two German states have left some traces in the German language. – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Mat Schulze says that these are most obvious in the vocabulary. However, if one considers the small number of East-West differences in the context of the entire German language, then it becomes clear that the commonalities outweigh the differences. The German language united its speakers in East and West and did not separate them. Language change in the twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall – initiated and experience by Easterners and Westerners alike – contributed further to the linguistic commonalities in a united Germany.

  • September 2010 in an international conference on the reunification of Germany,  “Le retour de l’histoire? Répercussions européennes et internationales de la réunification allemande” international scholars analized the impact on the United Germany and parts of its society. The conference was organized  by the centre canadien d’études allemandes et européennes  (CCEAE)  in collaboration of the CEUE, the CERIUM, the Goethe-Institut and the Consulate of the Federal Republic of Germany in Montréal.  The conference’s  special  guests were Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada and former Minister of State of External Affairs , and Monique Garbrecht, Sprint World Champion of  Speed Skating and Olympic Medalist.

Panel 1) L’unification allemande : vers un nouvel ordre mondial ? 

Pierre Grosser (Sciences-Po, Paris), La réunification allemande marque-t-elle la fin de la guerre froide ?  – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Beverly Crawford  (University of California, Berkeley) Teutonic Shifts: the Underlying Forces of German Foreign Policy – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Ursula Lehmkuhl (Freie Universität Berlin), Open Skies – Two Plus Four – CSCE – NATO ? Canada’s Foreign Policy Priorities at the End of the Cold War – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Panel 2 « Une Allemagne européenne ou une Europe allemande ? » 

Pierre-Frédéric Weber (Université de Szczecin),  Le long XXe siècle mémoriel de l’Europe : Réflexions sur la persistance d’une division Est-Ouest  –CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Gilbert Casasus (Université de Fribourg), Angela Merkel, la nouvelle dame de fer en Europe, a-t-elle encore besoin de la relation franco-allemande ? – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

L’invité d’honneur, le Très Honorable Joe Clark, Premier ministre du Canada (1979-1980) et ministre des Affaires étrangères (1984-1991), « The Fallen Wall and “Open Skies” : Ottawa’s Role in German Reunification » introduced by by Présidente de séance : Marie Bernard-Meunier (ancienne Ambassadrice du Canada en Allemagne)  – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

 Panel 3 « Modell Deutschland et l’Europe élargie, suite et fin ? »

L’unification allemande et l’élargissement vers l’est de l’Union européenne devaient signaler le triomphe du modèle rhénan du capitalisme. Or, la crise actuelle de l’euro remet en question toute l’économie politique européenne ainsi que le leadership allemand alors que l’ouverture des frontières remet en question les identités et le modèle social européens.

Jean-François Jamet (Sciences-Po, Paris), « L’éthique allemande et l’esprit européen : l’Allemagne garante de la stabilité de l’euro ? » CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Jennifer Hunt (McGill University), « The Labour Market Legacy of Unification »- CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Thierry Warin (Middlebury College et École Polytechnique de Montréal), « Élargissement de l’Europe et flux migratoires : avenir et enjeux »- CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Éléonore Lépinard (Université de Montréal), « Un voile sur le multiculturalisme européen ? » – CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Panel 4 « ‘Et l’Allemagne réunifiée dominera le monde …du sport’ ? »

Prenant cette prévision (métaphorique) du « Kaiser » Franz Beckenbauer lors de la coupe du monde de football de 1990 comme point de départ, ce panel examine le rôle des sports dans la construction identitaire allemande et européenne et comme lieu de conflit international déplacé.

Wolfram Eilenberger (University of Toronto), « The Last of the Ossis – Michael Ballack and the Very Idea of a “Führungsspieler” »

Robert Ide (sports editor, Tagesspiegel, Berlin), « Silence during the National Anthem : Why Sports are Still Something Else in East Germany » CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Monique Garbrecht (médaillée olympique et 9 fois championne du monde en patinage de vitesse), « The Evolution of Competitive Sports in Unified Germany and the World since 1990 »CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

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