Tuesday, 11 November 2014


Today is my dear mother's 77th birthday.

77 years ago she was born in Leipzig, Germany.  Two years later the gears of history shifted and collossal conflict that we know as the Second World War started.  Mum grew up in the war.  And after the dust had settled (literally - most of Leipzig had been efficiently bombed by Allied flying fortresses) Mum and her parents found themselves in the part of Germany occupied by the Soviet forces.

A grim charade then began as the dark cloud of the iron curtain fell over Europe.  This was the trully free part of the world - and the nasty capitalists in the west were really fascists in disguise.  The 'Germany Demcratic Republic' was formed in 1949.  My grandfather's coal business was taken over by the state.  But the could not take over his heart.  He worked his entire life as a good honest man, a lay preacher with the Free Methodist church, a lynch pin for the family as peace-maker and friend to many.  Mum went to school where they had to sing Marxist songs and were taught that scientific materialism would soon sweep away religion and all such redundant rubbish away into the dustbin of history.

There was a problem, however.  By the time most of the happy East Germans came of age, many of them realised that life was better in the other 'occupied zones' - and they left.  Thousands and thousands of them.  By 1961 3.5 million had left.  That means 20% of the population had gone.  The authorities obviously noticed that wave after wave of young people were going to 'visit their relatives' in the West - and not coming back.  The borders were gradually made tighter - but with a subway connecting East and West Berlin - the flow of refugees grew to a flood with most using Berlin as their gateway out of the Marxist Paradise.

My mother was one of these who went to 'visit her relatives.'  My grandparents considered leaving too - but prayed about it and sensed that God wanted them to stay.  And so stay they did.  But Mum - with a combination of bitterness and joy left.

Her generation was the last to leave.  On August 13 1961 the East German authorities plugged the last big hole - by building an Antifaschistischer Schutzwall (German is a great language - an Anti-fascist protection wall) unannounced, almost overnight.

Mum had left a few years earlier and was already in Spain - where the wall of her heart was broken and she gave up her bitterness and surrendered to the Lord Jesus.

We grew up with the wall here in India.  It loomed large as our grandparents in the far-away GDR were never able to come an visit us.  I only met my grandfather Fischer once - he died in 1975.

The thought that there was ever going to be anything other than the Cold War we grew up with - with its seemingly permanent division of the world between the West and the Soviets - was hard to imagine.  The Berlin Wall crystalized this contrast between systems.

When Ronald Reagan (not the most popular of chaps for many of us) stood up and said 'tear down this wall' it sounded like he was mouthing words from one of his cowboy flicks.

And then, miracle of miracles - 25 years ago on the 9th of November 1989 we hear that the East Germany government was allowing its citizens to 'go West' (thousands had already done that by driving through Chzeckoslovakia that summer) - and then saw the amazing scenes of people flooding over the wall, celebrating, sitting on top of it, hacking away at it with hammers...

Mauerfall.  The fall of the Wall had actually happened.

That was 25 years ago.  That was yesterday.

In 1990 - with German reunification having just taken place, Stefan and I spent a few weeks in the newly formed united Germany.  We visited our relatives in the former East Berlin and asked them if we could borrow a hammer and a chisel.  Then we went to the wall.  And hacked some pieces off it.

This weekends' retrospective look on those heady days a quarter of a century ago have brought a lump to my throat.  Change is possible.  What seems immovable can be moved.  We saw how much the prayers of the people - and the individual acts of bravery brought a demise to the whole apparently-immovable Soviet system.

Happy Birthday Mum!

In an age of Facebook I couldn't help by download photos my friend Binod Mahanty took yesterday evening.  To commorate 25 years of Mauerfall - a 'wall of lights' has been erected where the Berlin Wall used to stand.

May light shine into a lot of the walls that are still standing.  Especially the invisible walls that we carry around with us.

Time for more Mauerfall.

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