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Monday, June 24, 2024

Students commemorate 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

Two hundred people died trying to escape.

Seventy-two thousand people were incarcerated for trying to leave their country.

These facts and others were pasted upon the panels of a replica of the Berlin Wall created by a group of UF students.

More than 100 people gathered in Pugh Hall Thursday night for the Freedom Without Walls gala, which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989.

"A large group of UF students collaborated to bring the Berlin Wall to UF," said Will Hasty, a German studies professor.

For the past month, German students and faculty hosted a film festival, a speech contest and built and tore down a replica of the Berlin Wall.

The panels of the UF wall served as a backdrop behind the speakers and decorations around Pugh Hall for the audience to see as it listened to the many speakers at the event.

The speakers touched on the importance of the wall's fall to Germany and how important it is to commemorate the event.

German studies professor Franz Futterknecht introduced the winners of the speech contest, and the first-, second- and third-place winners each gave his or her speech again.

The first-place winner, Heather Lear, started to tear up toward the end of her speech, in which she described her visit to Berlin and how her parents met there years ago.

"I was completely blown away by the emotion displayed here," psychology and German sophomore Johanna Meyer said. Meyer was one of the students who helped build and paint the replica.

After the student speeches, keynote speaker Holger Teschke, an author and former dramatist in the Berlin Ensemble Theater Group, said he still remembers what he was doing when the wall fell. He said there was a peaceful rebellion the night the wall came down and the world should use this as an example to help make it a better place.

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"I wasn't expecting a tearjerker," Meyer said. "I was expecting more of a celebration, but I guess with this the two go hand in hand."

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