“Thirty years later we speak of the ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall,’ but the Wall didn’t simply tumble down like a row of dominoes on November 9th. The GDR continued to exist for another year, during which the East German authorities did what they could to keep up appearances. The border guards let East and West Germans cross the border freely, but when it came to foreign residents like myself those first few weeks, they didn’t quite know what to do. My passport wasn’t enough for them; I had to go to the foreign police and apply for an interim document, a ‘Lichtbildbescheinigung’ that was essentially a stamped sheet of paper with my address and a photograph stapled to it. It was a pretend-document for a situation in which the authorities pretended they still had authority; a document for a charade.”
My essay on November 9, 1989 for the Times Literary Supplement.
Non-subscribers can read the PDF here.