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Drake Law professor reflects on Berlin Wall

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Professor Jerry Anderson

As Germany celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall today, Drake University law professor Jerry L. Anderson reflects on his 1978 visit to one of the most visible symbols of the Cold War.

Anderson, the Richard M. and Anita Calkins distinguished professor of law at Drake Law School, recently wrote an opinion piece for the Des Moines Register recalling his first sight of the Berlin Wall.

He and a college friend who were bumming around Europe made a point of visiting the ugly concrete wall that divided the city of Berlin. They passed through the heavily guarded Checkpoint Charlie to tour part of East Berlin.

“Walking into East Berlin was like switching your TV set from color to black and white,” Anderson wrote. “While West Berlin was a showcase of capitalism, loaded with neon signs, vibrant restaurants and shops, East Berlin’s streets were stagnant and the mood morose. The shop windows had primitive displays of meager goods, cheaply made. The food was bad and not very plentiful. The shopkeepers seemed dispirited.

“Until that point, we were typical college kids — sort of semi-patriotic, steeped in the cynicism of ‘M*A*S*H,’ halfway embarrassed to be put in the same category as the ‘ugly American’ tourists pushing their way around Europe. Marxism was just another thing to debate about in political science class. That day sufficed to destroy any illusions we may have harbored about communism.”