Panel Discussion marks 30th Anniversary of the Mauerfall

Author:  | Friday, December 20th, 2019 | 

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This past November marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — one of the most significant historical developments for modern Germany in recent memory. To mark the occasion, Friends of Freiburg University organized a panel discussion of art, film, and dissidents in former East Germany — and how traces of these movements still impact society and culture today.

The panel was hosted at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Panelists included Dr. John Torpey, the director of the Ralph Bunche Institute and Presidential Professor of Sociology and History; Cornelia Thomsen, a New York-based artist who grew up in East Germany; and Dr. Barton Byg, the Founding Director of the DEFA Film Archives at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a Freiburg alumnus. The DEFA Archives are notable as the only North American-based film archives for the former East German agency. The discussion was moderated by Sarah Stephens, an alumna and Friends of Freiburg board member, who shared her own experiences about living and working in East Berlin (including personal anecdotes about her Stasi file). Dr. Torpey shared insight into how existing divisions between the former East and West Germany in some ways mirror the fission that still exists between the northern and southern US.  Dr. Byg offered an interesting analysis of the messaging within East German film. And Thomsen’s frank reflections about her personal experiences as an East German learning to make her way in the West following the fall of the Wall carried the audience of the world of academia and into a personal understanding of the effects of this divide.

The engaging discussion was followed by a lovely reception, allowing alumni and audience members to mingle and freely discuss their experiences and impressions with the speakers. Please see the gallery of photos below!


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