1961 – The Berlin Wall, built to divide a city, peoples and a nation. A giant swathe of no-man’s land cuts through the city and suburbs: the so-called ‘death zone.’

1974 – We visit West Berlin, a bustling and vigorous city, the epitome of the Wirtschaftswunder (“economic miracle”) of the FDR, West Germany. We go shopping in KaDeWe, the Department Store of the West, a tangible manifestation of all that the Wall of Shame was there for, to protect East Berliners from capitalist temptation. A young elegantly dressed couple, he in a fur seal coat, are buying a Meissen china coffee set at only 16,000 Deutschmarks. Ironically it is a product of East Germany.

We visit East Berlin, bleak and grey, the epitome of all that our prejudices have led us to suspect of the Eastern Bloc and the DDR (East Germany). We to shopping in Unter den Linden, anxious to spend the 5 DM that we have been obliged to purchase at Checkpoint Charlie. We can buy stamps, postcards and a propaganda book. The locals queue for bread.

1980 – On the balcony of a comfortable Bauhaus style apartment in Lichtenrade, a southrn suburb of Berlin: crisp autumn air, great friends, coffee so strong you can almost eat it, and patisserie remembered forty years on. The wall here is a monolithic concrete construction topped with barbed wire, and behind that the embedded tank traps, trenches and patrolling guard dogs. We’re assured of the landmines and nail beds even though they can’t be seen. The contrast with the cows in the pasture of noman’s land, here over 1 km wide, is stark.

In late 1989 the Berlin Wall ceased to exist.

2020 – On the veranda in Sydney, and in the context of COVID-19, musing on walls, barriers, boundaries, enclosures, tariffs, trade embargoes and their relevance to enforced or obligitory isolation. When are the rights of individuals greater than those of the common good?

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