November in Germany is a very important month in history. Religiously, like many other countries, it is remembered for the month of the dead, with All Saints Day and All Souls Day at the start of November. Culturally, St Martinâ€™s Day is celebrated in some regions on the 11th, where children walk around the city with lanterns, with similarities to anglophonic Halloween. More importantly, many war-related events happened in November. The Armistice ending World War I was signed on 11th November 1918 with France and the Allies. TheÂ Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) happened between the 9th and 10th November 1938 in Munich, one of the largest Jewish pogroms of World War II with over 90 deaths. However, the date we are looking at today is the 9th November 1989, the day that marked the Fall of the Berlin Wall, an event marking the beginning of the end of the Cold War between the capitalist and communist countries. While historians struggle to agree on exact dates, many agree on the start being 1947, when the Truman Doctrine was announced, and 1991, with the Dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Fall of the Berlin Wall was a catalyst of the end of Cold War, with the German capital reuniting both the Western and Eastern sides of city. However, many argue that the Wall still exists today, in the form of a mental division, a concept commonly named Mauer im Kopf (Wall in the Head), which still separates both sides of Berlin. In a time of change in Germany, with long-term Chancellor Angela Merkel leaving her position this year, we can wonder how the legacy of the wall has affected the country, and in this case, its football culture and development.
Berlinâ€™s Cold War history
After the end of World War II, agreements were signed and there was a scramble for territories around Europe, with the capitalist West coming up against an ever-stronger USSR, who wanted to expand their empire throughout the continent. In August 1945, it was eventually agreed for Germany to be divided into four small parts, with an opposition of two blocks. On the one hand, a capitalist alliance owned three parts of the country, allocated to France, the United States and the United Kingdom. On the other side, was the communist bloc, allocated to the USSR, which included Berlin right in the heart of the bloc. A situation which did not suit the capitalist alliance, which demanded a part of the capital. It was itself divided into four, like the rest of the country, creating a clear division between east and west.
With this division, came in new lifestyles and economic models, notably for the east, which had lived until an authoritarian right-wing party for many years. With individual freedoms far more limited and an increasingly impoverished population, the communist eastern population realised very early on that their best bet for survival would be to flee to the west side of Berlin. In the space of 16 years, 3 million citizens crossed the divide, many of whom were engineers, teachers and doctors, creating a massive exodus and ultimately a brain drain to the west. This did not sit well with the Soviet Union, who saw prime assets to the success of their regime fleeing to the opposition. With tensions slowly escalading between Federal and Democratic Germany, their ego and pride were hurt. 16 years after the agreement for a divided Germany, the Soviet Union started the construction of the Berlin Wall on 13th August 1961, a clear demarcation which would enable them to control the flux of population towards the West, keeping their population on the communist side of Berlin. While the division was somewhat clear beforehand, this wall created an even clearer separation, with many families and communities between shut off from each other, on a completely arbitrary basis. Many families wonâ€™t see each other until the fall of the wall nearly three decades later. The Wall was not just a simple assemblage of bricks, which the fittest could escalade. The Wall evolved, and soon became two walls, with a minefield, barbed wires and armed guard towers in between both, creating a no-manâ€™s land and a buffer zone between both sides of the city. Some brave citizens tried swimming across the Spree River, few managed, but the security was reinforced there. In total, it was originally believed 140 people were killed or died in relation to an attempt of crossing the divide, with close to 100 of these being shot by military forces. New research shows that in reality, 327 died there, with the youngest being only six months old, dying of asphyxia when hiding in the trunk of a car with his parents.
The Wall separated both regimes economically and culturally. A strong capitalist spirit reigned in the West, fuelled by a strong American economy, while the collective spirit of communism united the Soviet ruled Eastern Berlin. However, while we will look at this collective spirit later, the economic limitations did drastically impact the development of Eastern Berlin. Inhabitants or visitors of the West were allowed with special visas to visit the East, crossing the divide and experiencing a far cheaper lifestyle, even for the space of anÂ Â evening, while it was completely forbidden for the Eastern citizens to go the other way. The local eastern money was five times cheaper than on the other side, making ordinary citizens nearly flushed in money when crossing over. But other than a lush experience, there was also a certain worry when seeing the lack of colours and development when going over, with the East being so scarce on financial power. Life was far more limited, economically restricted and radically different, with the city looking like it had hardly changed since the blocs had been set up in the 1940s, while the West thrived in the modern age. Now, this is not to say that life was better or worse in the East, but it was certainly different. Many argue that the collectivist culture of communism was an advantage and grew a stronger bond between citizens. However, there is certainly truth that life was financially harder in the East, as was the case in most areas of the communist empire. Both sides grew apart, without necessarily hating each other, but there was certainly a cultural division. This was antagonised by the governments who pushed their populations to a stronger hate than they would have normally.
However, things took a completely new turn in November 1989. The Soviet bloc had been dividing throughout the 1980s, with the financial struggles really starting to become alarmingly problematic and causing uprises throughout the territories under communist ruling. On the 4th November 1989, 5 days before the Fall of the Wall, a mass demonstration ignited in East Berlin. Through a set of minor agreements in the centre of the Soviet bloc, mass immigration from East Germany into Austria, through Hungary, caused an uproar inÂ Â the latter. The Hungarian government blocked immigration and sent back East Germans back to Berlin, with the Eastern German government blocking travel to Hungary as well. Similar measures were set up in regards with immigration to Czechoslovakia. Feeling increasingly trapped, East Germans wanted out and started a mass movement, which eventually led to 500.000 protestors uniting atÂ Alexandersplatz to protest. New East German leader, Egon Krenz, was somewhat relaxing measures set up by his predecessor and long-term leader Enrich Honecker, but his plans werenâ€™t enough to contain the mass immigration and more regulations were needed to ease the exodus. Lack of communication with the spokesperson, GÃ¼nter Schabowski, led to him revealing that the new regulations, allowing safe transition between the sides of Berlin, were taking affect after his press conference on 9th November 1989, rather than the next day, allowing for guards to be prepped. With mass confusion, between the East German population and the Wall guards, this eventually led to safe travel to the West being authorised. The Ossis (Easter population) were greeted with flowers by the Wessis (Western population) with flowers, reunited populations nearly three decades since the wall was built. The first hammers went for the wall, creating iconic pictures which still live on to this day, 32 years after the Fall of the Wall. However, while the population was now united, there is a real debate about how the reunification truly affected both sides of Germany, notably from a footballing standpoint.
Sports in divided Germany
We need to first understand the context in which football lived when the Wall fell. After World War II, the victors obliged Germany to dismantle all their sports organisations and generally group activities, in an attempt to avoid indoctrination and possible constitution of armies. However, progressively, both sides of Germany starting reorganising sports, with the funding West Germany enabling their population to enjoy organised physical activities again, notably with the arrival of professional football. This was very much the case when the Bundesliga was created in 1963, with 16 teams invited to play. Other countries had professional leagues, and were taking all the best German players who were involved in semi-professional leagues at the time, so this stopped the flee of talents abroad. Teams such as Eintracht Frankfurt, Werder Bremen, Hamburger SV, VfB Stuttgart or Borussia Dortmund were involved from the start. Competing in the second division at the time, Bayern Munich eventually promotedÂ toÂ theÂ Bundesliga in 1965,Â starting their dominationÂ over GermanÂ football,Â eventuallyÂ winningÂ their first European title withÂ a victory in the 1967 Cup Winnersâ€™ Cup. Generally, funding from the capitalist economy and its companiesâ€™ involvement, with notably Volkswagen, investing very early on, enabled these clubs to thrive and pay their players well.
In the meantime, however, things were not so bright in the East. Sport is extremely important to Soviet governments, showing proudly their elite athletes to prove the strength of their governments and their power. The state starting funding sports in the 1950s, with notably the formation of an East national team in 1952 and the instauration of amateur clubs throughout the East. However, this process was slowed down, as large insurrections broke out in the area, which was condemned by the West. This led to regulations against large group meetings, stopping the development of football. Once everything was back on track, it became clear the different approach between East and West, the first created social organisations, while the latter ran their clubs like companies, with sponsors and external funding. Additionally, the East focussed more on Olympic athletes, which were far more represented abroad but also represented more this concept of cult of the individual (single athletes) rather than larger groups (clubs). The Olympic athletes were earning a lot of medals to the East, regularly performing well in the Summer Games, which backed the governments strategy.
East showing pride
At club level however, the East gave more importance to youth. As the clubs could not afford big names from abroad, they celebrated the local talent and put in more investment in the academies. The local heroes are certainly very important in communist states, so celebrating the youth players who would become the club heroes was a logical strategy to counter the fact they were struggling financially. Many specialists noted when the reunification happened, that the East take far more care of their youth players than the West and that investment was proportionally far greater as well. While this was represented at international level, with the Democratic Germany showing very good performances throughout their time as a divided country, but ultimately it is important to see how the two countries cohabited following reunification.
The former manager of Hansa Rostock and Union Berlin, two of the biggest clubs in the East, Heinz Werner, said he was dismayed when, after the Fall of the Wall, he discovered how little the West Germans invested in their youth players. According to him, as recounted in the Guardian, when he raised the issue in an annual German FA conference in 1992, following the reunification, he was jeered. â€œThey told me that training up young players took too much time. â€˜We can just buy players when we need themâ€™ they saidâ€ told Werner. This was quite revealing of the capitalist mentality and in all honesty, seeing the European success of Bayern Munich, it was hard to disagree with that statement. Enough was done for the national team to still be competitive, winning three World Cups as West Germany (1954-1974-1990). When Franz Beckenbauer, West German national team manager, won the competition in 1990, he said would become unbeatable, adding to the current squad the supposed talent from the East. He had little knowledge of how good the other side of Germany was, and did little to try integrating them and was eventually not as successful in creating a combined and unbeatable force. Thankfully for the East, he did not stay very long in the job and eventually by the 2002 World Cup squad, 11 of the 20 outfield players were from the East, showing a strong pool of talent coming from that side of the country.
In reality, the East had been â€“ not so quietly â€“ become a force of nature, particularly at national level. Democratic Germany national team set up were doing very well, with many players growing up together at youth level and developing a strong bond on the pitch. In their only game against Federal Germany at competitive level, in the 1974 World Cup, set in West Germany, the East Germans came and fought for their spot and won the game against all odds. While it was only a group game, this certainly surprised a few and stayed in the collective memory at the time. This was their first qualification for the finals of a competition, in West Germany and they beat their national counterparts, the irony was quite strong. Democratic Germany went on to win gold at the 1976 Olympics two years later, signing off the legacy of this very talented team. In the meantime, many of the individuals involved in the national squad were victorious at club level. FC Madgebourg became the only club from the East to win a European cup, as they lifted the Cup Winnersâ€™ Cup in 1974. Ultimately, the East, at their own pace, were doing quite well.
Join us next week for the second instalment of this article