Inside Media: Reporting the Wall's Fall

November 08, 2009

Guest: Marc Fisher

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

The Washington Post's Marc Fisher never expected to see the Berlin Wall fall, much less cover the story. Two decades later, he is happy to have been wrong.

"I was there soaking it all in. It seemed like nothing I'd ever seen before in my life," he said of thousands of East and West Berliners cheering as the ominous symbol of oppression came tumbling down.

The newly minted Bonn bureau chief wanted to capture the euphoria on both sides of the wall and remembers "traveling on foot, because there were so many amazing stories." Weeks later, those stories had swelled tenfold.

One that stood out involved an East German couple that Fisher followed during their first outing to a Western supermarket.

"They were literally overwhelmed by the number of choices. When this husband and wife came to the pet food aisle, they broke down in tears," he said.

Built in 1961 by the German Democratic Republic, the Berlin Wall served for nearly 30 years as a barrier to freedoms experienced in West Germany and other parts of the world. But as Germany began the slow process of reunification, Fisher said the attitude of some East Germans was resentful.

"Many of them viewed it as a takeover by the West," he said. "While they liked the ability to travel and other freedoms, under Communist rule, their careers had been chosen for them. Their education was chosen. For a people who had lived extremely deprived lives, the trade-off for freedom was a tremendous loss of security."

Fisher chronicled the brave new world facing East and West Germans in the book "After the Wall: Germany, the Germans and the Burdens of History." He serves as the Post's enterprise editor for local news after recently retiring his regular Metro column.

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