“Gundermann” Screening and Panel reflect on life in the GDR 30 years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Jim Sheppard, Nadine Jocaitis, Tanja Matuszis, Gabriele Müller and Claude Adams 

Jim Sheppard, Nadine Jocaitis, Tanja Matuszis, Gabriele Müller and Claude Adams, © German Consulate Toronto

27.11.2018 - Article

As the last event in our series celebrating 30 years of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, we partnered up with the Goethe-Institut Toronto for a screening of the movie “Gundermann” followed by a panel discussion about personal stories about life in the GDR.

Gerhard Gundermann was a digger driver and singer-songwriter in the GDR, who eventually turned Stasi spy, only to learn later that he was spied on as well. Beside other things, “Gundermann” is an empathic film about home, ideology, and the revisiting of a disappeared country.

Following the movie, a panel consisting of Canadian journalists, who covered the events 30 years ago and people sharing their personal memories and reflections on life in the GDR closed the evening.

Claude Adams was the chief European correspondent for CBC’s The National in 1989, and covered the collapse of the Berlin Wall. He described the moment as followed: “In a career of covering so much bad news I was suddenly able to cover a story of so much joy.” Born in Germany himself, he and his parents left Germany in 1952, coming back over 30 years later; experiencing the fall of the Berlin Wall was a powerful and overwhelming moment. He remembers people screaming “aufmachen, aufmachen” (open up, open up) and people dancing on the Wall.

Gabriele Mueller is Associate Professor in German Studies at York University. Her research interests lie in the areas of German cultural studies, contemporary German film, and East German studies. She has concentrated mainly on two areas: an exploration of cinematic responses to social change, and cinematic discourses on cultural memory, in particular related to the remembering of the GDR. “The movie is an almost archaeological project itself as Gundermann, the digger driver, also digs in his own (Stasi) past.”

Jim Sheppard was the London Bureau Chief of The Canadian Press in 1986 and also experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall up close. He remembers following people, with their permission, traveling to the west for the first time and only looking around of what was available in Western stores. “People went back home because they could not afford anything.”

Nadine Jocaitis, who was born in Gotha, Thuringia, in 1980 provided insight about living in the GDR and described her childhood as carefree with holiday camps and summers in Hungary. A moment she shared on the stage was when she, on November 10, 1989, was waiting at the police station of her hometown with her parents to get a temporary travel permit, people were getting impatient with the overwhelmed officers there, escalating into people yelling: “We were waiting for years, we don’t want to wait any longer.”

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