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Amid Europe’s frenzied political turmoil of 20 years ago, there were all manner of landmark dates that were stepping stones en route to a new order. And August 31, 1990 was one of the most significant. For it was 20 years ago today that representatives of the governments of East Germany and West Germany met in Berlin to sign the Unification Treaty that was to lead to the merging of the two German States on October 3, 1990—or, rather more precisely, the assimilation of the six eastern German Länder into the Federal Republic of Germany.
Some look back now and have misgivings about how events unfolded. Many commentators suggest that East Germany disappeared too quickly and that the life experiences of an entire generation were dismissed as worthless.
Dismantling the Berlin Wall
History is made up of individuals and not merely the schemes of governments. And August 31, 1990 was a day of personal tragedy in the community in which we live on the outskirts of Berlin. The Wall has now long gone, but in summer 1990 local kids were busy chipping away at the structure. Where once the Wall stood, now there is a beautiful cycle route that tracks round the outer edges of Berlin. Susan Buzzelli highlighted the merits of that bike path in a posting earlier this month here on EuroCheapo.
A tragic accident
On August 31, 1990, 14-year-old Christoph-Manuel Bramböck from Lichterfelde (Berlin) became the victim of a terrible accident. He was chipping away at the bottom of the Wall, keen to get some fragments of the fast disappearing structure. He did not notice that his efforts had loosened a slab of concrete higher up the Wall. The block crashed down on Christoph-Manuel’s head, killing him instantly. He was the last victim of the Berlin Wall.
The Berlin Wall trail
The Berlin Mauerweg cycle route has many memorials along its route, recalling episodes connected with the Wall that for almost three decades divided Berlin. Among them is the memorial to Christoph-Manuel. who would have celebrated his 35th birthday this October. The Berlin Wall trail is an engaging tour of Cold War history and a reminder of the human dimension of international politics.