Producer Simon Tierney investigates the Irish connection with East Germany as the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is remembered
November 9th 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. To mark this seismic moment in world history, we have scheduled a broadcast of one of the classics from our archive of homegrown feature-length radio documentaries: Behind The Wall.
‘Behind the Wall’ tells the story of four men and women with Irish connections who lived behind the Berlin Wall. It is also an investigation into what it was like to live in one of the most guarded and restrictive countries in the world.
In an unprecedented move, the East German authorities opened the border between East and West Germany on November 9th 1989. What they envisaged was the broadening of the travel rights of their citizens. What resulted was a different story: a deluge of people descended on the Berlin Wall and celebrated a new freedom, after 28 years of isolation.
Within the context of this historic event, Simon Tierney traces the stories of four people who were intricately linked with both East Germany and Ireland. Peter Millar is a journalist who grew up in Bangor, Co. Down. He found himself in the middle of history on November 9th 1989...stuck between East and West Berlin. He shares his experience of being bugged by the Stasi and reporting from the frontline of the Eastern Bloc. We also meet Christa Maria Lerm Hayes, a woman who grew up in Jena and experienced the benign human trafficking of the East German government when she eventually managed to get out of the country. She married an Irishman and moved to this country. Henrike Rau lives and works in Galway but grew up near Dresden in East Germany. She shares her stories of Communist youth groups, receiving gifts of chocolate and coffee from the West and the overwhelming experience of driving into West Germany after the fall of the Wall.
One of the most startling stories that emerges from the documentary is that of Belfast native Elizabeth Shaw. Shaw became a committed Communist while studying at the Chelsea School of Art in the 1940s. She married a German man and moved to the Soviet sector of East Berlin to help in the building of the Socialist utopian dream. She eventually became the most celebrated children’s author in East Germany.
‘Behind the Wall’ explores the very fabric of life in an extraordinary society while attempting to understand what drew people from Ireland to East Germany and vice versa.
‘Behind the Wall’ will be broadcast on Newstalk on Saturday 3rd November 2019 at 7am, with a repeat broadcast the following Saturday 9th November 2019.
Listen to the original podcast of Behind The Wall from 2014 here:
‘Behind the Wall’ can also be listened to online at: www.newstalk.com
Podcast available at: www.newstalk.com/documentaryonnewstalk.
CREDITS: ‘Behind the Wall’ was written, produced and edited by Simon Tierney.
Behind the Wall was originally broadcast on Newstalk in November 2014.