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When the Wall Came Tumbling Down

Perl Marton

Twenty-five years ago this week, the Berlin Wall, a longtime symbol of Communist rule in Eastern Europe, crumbled before the world’s eyes. David Kern, today a Torah scholar in London, was witness to that momentous event — a day those trapped behind the Iron Curtain thought might never come.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

On the night of November 9, 1989, 15-year-old David Kern sat in his childhood home on the Ackerstrasse in East Berlin. There was a stir in the streets, a foreign wind blowing through the avenues. The Wall was coming down, and David was stuck at home. His mother, a daughter of Holocaust survivors who moved to Germany after the war to participate in the building of a new socialist utopia, wouldn’t let him out the door. Too dangerous, she said. The next morning, he went to school, but not many kids had shown up. After a while, those present agreed: Let’s go to the Wall. And so they started walking, joined by thousands of others, toward an unknown future. Since the end of World War II, the Wall had represented the decadent, bourgeoisie West — the enemy. Now, in those first stirring moments of freedom, the tall, gray concrete Wall became the symbol of something very different: a gateway to the outside world and an invitation to a new life. For David, those first steps would also represent a journey back to himself and a life of Torah. Looking back, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, David can now see the bigger picture, what the fall of Communism meant then, and what the monumental event could hint about the future. “When you witness an entire system cease to exist from one moment to the next,” Kern said in an interview from his London home, “it gives you an indication of the rapid transformations we will experience with Mashiach’s arrival.” Today, David is a rabbi and avreich living in England with his wifeRebecca and seven children. But those days of revolution and collapse are never far from his mind. The idea that Communism — a system so dominant and imposing — could collapse in an instant, is still a wonder to those who experienced it. This isDavid’s story.

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