History Monday #79

Can the Church’s power trump the state’s?

America as a nation celebrates the important idea of Separation of Church and State. Congress is forbidden from establishing a national religion or interfering with any private practice thereof. This radical idea would likely ruffle some important feathers in one of the principal actors in today’s #HistoryMonday.

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On this day in 1302, Pope Boniface VIII issues the papal bull known as Unam sanctam. For reference a papal bull is not a bovine that the Pope releases to terrorize opponents. The word bull refers to a clay seal on a letter and is connected to the Latin word ‘bulla’ which means ‘bubble’ since the seals were usually round blobs. Although the Pope sending wild cattle to intimidate opponents might have more effect if not more entertaining.

Anyways, back to Unam sanctam and its historical significance. Pope Boniface VIII was embroiled in a Philip IV, the King of France over monetary obligations to the church or the state. King Philip in 1296 had ordered clergy serving in France to pay taxes at about 50% of their income in response to Boniface’s ambassadors insisting on the importance of following Church law. Boniface issued a papal bull Clericos laicos in response which effectively denied King Philip’s unfair taxes on clergy and any other clergy taxes, such as King Edward I, of England. Government agents including royalty faced excommunication for levying such taxes.

The Catholic Church was fine with collecting their own taxes to pay for Holy Land travels and building projects but saw their own power as superior to the national leaders who were appointed to serve by the Pope. Philip then responded by enacting an embargo to prevent goods being delivered to the Papal States to bring pressure to bear on Boniface.

Unam sanctam is named for a portion its opening line, “We are obliged by the faith to believe and hold—and we do firmly believe and sincerely confess—that there is one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and that outside this Church there is neither salvation nor remission of sins…. In which Church there is ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’” The line in Latin, “est unam Sanctam Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam” can easily be parsed by using cognates in the English. Boniface makes a further assertion in Unam sanctam that there are two swords to be used by the Church, the spiritual and the temporal. Obviously, the spiritual is the Church contending against false doctrine to preserve the true Gospel while the temporal are the princes, kings, and rulers that the Church permits to enforce non-church matters in consultation with the head of the Church which is the Pope.

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Obviously, Unam sanctam would have pushback during the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther encouraged the Prince of Saxony to refuse the Pope in 1517 after addressing issues with papal authority and misuse of Church funds in his Ninety-five Theses.

Prior to the Reformation, the immediate aftermath of Unam sanctam was felt by Boniface at the hands of King Philip. John of Paris was asked by Philip to refute the bull with his own criticisms. Boniface then excommunicated King Philip.

Following this back and forth, King Philip convened an assembly and alleged several crimes that Boniface was guilty of committing such as heresy, murder of Pope Celestine V, and magic.  Guillaume de Nogaret, an advisor to Philip with an army of mercenaries attacked the papal residence. Once inside, the ruffians apprehended Boniface, but spared his life because they decided episcopicide crossed some line. Sadly, Boniface succumbed to the injuries by King Philip’s forces about a month later.

Boniface and Unam sanctam was seen as problematic not just by King Philip. Dante Alighieri penned an article arguing that both the Pope and the Monarch are only humans who are empowered by God to serve in their capacities. Ultimately, God should decide how to use the swords not two fallible and mortal human beings. Dante also included Boniface in Inferno and doomed Boniface to the eighth level of Hell for simony, the act of selling church offices or roles. King Philip would also encourage Pope Clement V to conduct a posthumous trial of Boniface. The council leading the trial accepted the testimony of three cardinals as to Boniface’s innocence and declared the matter closed.

The fact that King Philip is also known as Philip the Fair should not be lost on anyone for the rich irony of attacking a Pope, likely leading to his death and then trying him for crimes against the Church. Essentially what would be seen now as a playground squabble had serious effects because each actor ratcheted up the tension, with Boniface declaring Philip as having lost salvation while Philip declared the Pope was a corrupt heretic.

While this might get missed in modern times, since we have realized the lunacy of the battle between church and state, the idea of the distinguishing features of the church persist. The Church is one or united because we share one faith, one mission, one hope, and one Lord. We are united in at least two of the sacraments whether Roman Catholic or Protestant. We are also holy because we are to be set apart from the world to accomplish the goodness and purpose of God. We are catholic because we exist as a body of believers universally for all people, at all times, in all places. Lastly, we are apostolic because we follow the authority of the apostles. This authority was then handed on from bishop to bishop.  This tradition was preserved, taught, and handed on by the apostles—an unbroken chain of succession. Similar language is still confessed even today with the Apostles’ Creed, but more especially with the Nicene Creed.

[For what it’s worth, trying to write seriously about this was somewhat of a challenge because I read this with a focus on the more humorous aspects of this story. As I first read Unam sanctam during my continuing education classes, another pastoral colleague and I jokingly referred to the Pope as Boney-face and of course Phil for the King. By applying diminutive nicknames to each person, it helps to process the information and remember it more easily.]

Do you recite the Apostles’ Creed or Nicene Creed at church on a regular basis?

History Monday #78

Life is a Highway, a song says and today’s historical event is about the life of highways

It’s the 11th day of the 11th Month, and for Americans that means Veterans’ Day. So, blessings and thanks to all Armed Forces Veterans on this day. The armistice of World War I would seem the most obvious choice for today’s entry, but I like to call attention to the not so obvious events for #HistoryMonday, so let’s roll on down the highway with today’s entry.

The U.S. Highway Plan approved on 11 November, 1926

On November 11, 1926, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) approved the Numbered Highway System. Created more than a decade earlier to organize and assist the patchwork group of auto trails, the AASHO acknowledged shortcomings of the loose affiliation of the auto trails and hoped to correct them.

Most auto trails began as old wagon trails, cow paths, and corduroy roads. Adventurous and romanticized travelers attempted to navigate the country using these pathways and created names like the Lincoln Highway, Dixie Highway, Ocean to Ocean Trail, among others. Travelers found confusion when auto trail clubs built parallel roads with makeshift signage and no clear instruction on which route to take, something had to be done.

Wisconsin noticed the pitfalls and decided that an organized system using numbers rather than arbitrary names would be a better option. Other states followed suit and eventually the AASHO began meeting to organize the system nationwide that would be clear to all.

Not everyone appreciated the move though. Some of the auto trail designers felt that numbers were too sterile and cold and lost the sense of adventure and honor that the named trails offered. Arguing that numbers were an insult to the memory of Abraham Lincoln by numbering a highway rather than retaining the Lincoln Highway. Others joked that nobody could get their ‘kicks’ on 46, 55 or 33 or 21. Ironically, Route 66 would be popularized in song and travelers were encouraged to get their ‘kicks’ on the highway.

Spending roughly a year to plan the system, the AASHO approved the report from U.S. Agriculture officials serving with the Bureau of Public Roads and state highway officials. The Joint Board had tried to determine the best way to arrange the routes and satisfy local entities.

The U.S. Highway Numbering System uses numbers to convey direction of travel and length of the route. Odd numbers generally run north and south, with highways ending in ‘1’ and ‘5’ being major routes. East to West routes use even numbers and those ending in ‘0’ are major highways spanning from coast to coast. Spurs of the parent highway adopt a third digit prefix attached to the parent highway number.

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As the U.S. Highway Numbering System became the standard for auto travel, other states followed the pattern for their own state routes. Eventually, the Interstate Highway System would use roughly the same numbering system during their creation. The Interstate Highway System also insisted on further standards for the roads that the U.S. Highway System don’t always require.

Even today, there are still memorialized and honorary naming conventions for highways still exists. Portions of state highways, U.S. Highways, and Interstate Highways bear the names of important people. The Interstate Highway System bears the official name Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways honoring Pres. Eisenhower who pushed for a standardized transcontinental system similar to the highway systems he had observed during World War II in Germany.


The Southern terminus of U.S. Highway 1 in Key West, FL

Even many of the old auto trails named for persons or geographic destinations are still associated with U.S. Highways. Nearby in Kentucky, U.S. 31 and its spurs are most often termed the Dixie Highway, and of course as I traveled on U.S. Highway 40 during Undergrad, the highway is popularly known as the National Road.

What’s your favorite U.S. Highway?

History Monday #77

History is made with the 44th President on this day

Hopefully as the calendar has changed to a new month, you are excited for today’s #HistoryMonday entry. Today’s post deals with everyone’s favorite subject—politics. I’ll try to stay above the fray and address the historical implications for the United States and for African-Americans specifically.

On November 4, 2008, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois won the Presidential election over Senator John McCain of Arizona, becoming the 44th President of the United States.  President Obama’s election win marked the first African American elected to the presidency.

Born in 1961 in Hawaii to a white mother from Kansas and a Kenyan father, Obama graduated from Harvard Law School and was a law professor at the University of Chicago before launching his political career in 1996, when he was elected to the Illinois State Senate. Serving for 8 years in the Illinois State Senate, Obama was eventually elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 and immediately gained national attention in Democratic political circles.

Pres. Obama was able to earn 365 electoral votes and nearly 53 percent of the popular vote, outpacing the late Sen. McCain who earned only 173 electoral votes and just a little over 45 percent of the popular vote. Pres. Obama chose Senator Joe Biden of Delaware to be his running mate, while McCain’s running mate was Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. Had Sen. McCain won, history would have been made with the election of the first female Vice President. So, the election had historic importance regardless of the outcome.

Campaign staff chose Springfield, Illinois as the site for then-Senator Obama’s officially announcement of his candidacy for president. An Iowa caucus victory in January 2008 propelled him through the primary season to be the nominee over Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Obama’s team built a grassroots strategy for the general election season appealing to voters with their candidate’s natural charisma, unique life story and inspiring message of hope and change. The team also focused on appealing to young and African-American voters who identified with Obama’s demographic similarities. To this end, the campaign took advantage of the Internet to organize fundraising and voter turnout efforts.

Candidate Obama campaigned on pledges to get the U.S. out of the war in Iraq and drastically expanding healthcare access. The 2008 Recession caused Obama and McCain to provide solutions to address the economic struggles resulting from the Recession

President-elect Obama accepted the election victory at Chicago’s Grant Park, acknowledging the historic significance of his victory stating, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer… It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

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Pres. Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009 in Washington, D.C. according to the Constitutional process spelled out for the U.S. President. Pres. Obama would accomplish the campaign promise to expand health insurance coverage very shortly after with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” as an allusion to his efforts in the healthcare expansion.

After serving his first term, Pres. Obama was re-elected on November 6, 2012, defeating Republican Mitt Romney to win a second term in the White House. Pres. Obama completed his second term on January 20, 2017.

The election of Pres. Obama as the first African-American President is remarkable since governors, congressmen, and senators of African-American descent had been elected much earlier and often. Many of these political figures were elected within the first decade after the Civil War.

Pres. Obama’s presidency was also significant as mentioned for the historic expansion of health insurance coverage beyond private companies, establishing government agencies to oversee the administration of insurance.

Per his promise to end the Iraq War, Pres. Obama eventually withdrew troops from Iraq ending the almost decade-long conflict in the region. Pres. Obama did also accomplish a significant victory that had eluded his predecessor, by killing Osama bin Laden.

Pres. Obama’s progressive policies drew sharp criticism from conservatives just after his inauguration and saw Republican gains steadily each election cycle during his presidency. This also saw the rise of conservative media outlets that criticized those policies alleging the predominance of mainstream media outlets were amenable with Pres. Obama rather than maintaining independence. The reaction to these progressive policies also led to many voters electing Pres. Trump in 2016 who viewed the policies as unhelpful for the country and particularly divisive.

After leaving office, Pres. Obama has become a pseudo-celebrity appearing on Netflix specials and political conventions. Recently, Pres. Obama has also used his position to endorse candidates in 2018 and 2020. Just a few weeks ago, Pres. Obama endorsed Justin Trudeau for re-election as the Prime Minister of Canada. Surprisingly, Pres. Obama has yet to endorse a 2020 Presidential Candidate, which includes his Vice President Joe Biden, his former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and fellow Hawaiian Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Do you think Pres. Obama will endorse anyone in the 2020 Presidential Election.

History Monday #76

The city that never sleeps needs a nightlight

In a New York minute everything can change. Admittedly, today’s event took longer than a New York minute, however long of a measure that time is. So, start spreading the news, an important structure demonstrated that its construction brought light to inspire so many including this #HistoryMonday post.

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On this day in 1886, The Statue of Liberty is completed, and dedicated by Pres. Grover Cleveland. Originally a gift of friendship from the people of France in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and Franco-American relations during the American Revolution, the statue is erected in the New York Harbor just over a decade later.

The official name of the statue is “Liberty Enlightening the World,” and was conceived by French historian Edouard de Laboulaye during the American Civil War in 1865. Following this conception, French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, designed the 151-foot statue depicting Columbia personified as a woman with an uplifted arm holding a torch. The steel supports for the structure of the statue were designed by Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the latter famous for his design of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The exterior covering of the statue was made of copper. The tablet in Liberty’s hand is inscribed with July IV MDCCLXXVI which denotes the Fourth of July in Roman numerals.

Congress had approved a site for the statue in February 1877 Bedloe’s Island, upon a suggestion by Bartholdi. Harper’s Weekly and other enterprising individuals helped to encourage fundraising efforts to build the statue.

By May 1884, the statue was completed in France, and three months later the Americans laid the cornerstone for its pedestal in New York Harbor. Nearly a year later, the Statue of Liberty arrived with building instructions for the Americans.

As the copper sheets were attached to the statue and the last rivet of the monument was fitted on October 28, 1886, Pres. Cleveland along with numerous French and American dignitaries celebrated the accomplishment.

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Eventually the pedestal was inscribed with a sonnet “The New Colossus,” by American poet Emma Lazarus with aspirational verses for incoming émigrés in 1892. This was done thanks to nearby Ellis Island, which served as the chief entry station for immigrants to the United States, for the next 32 years. Lady Liberty as the statue has been euphemized, was one of the first sights for new immigrants to the U.S. before being processed at Ellis Island.

By the 20th Century, the copper had begun to oxidize, and the statue took on its now iconic green hue. The torch in the right arm didn’t suffer this fate as it was coated with a golden covering over the copper-plating.

Ralph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World began a campaign in 1916 to illuminate the area and celebrate its importance in New York. Eventually in 1924, Pres. Coolidge designated the statue as a National Monument. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island would eventually become a single entity as a National Monument. By 1956, Bedloe’s Island was renamed Liberty Island.

The statue underwent major restorations in the 1980s, the early 2000s, and even the last decade. A new standalone Statue of Liberty Museum began construction in 2016 that would offer access to many more visitors beyond those that visit the museum located in the pedestal. This new museum opened in May of this year.

Among similar notable statues, the Statue of Liberty is ranked by height somewhere around the 3rd spot depending on the list. Ahead of the Statue of Liberty are a statue dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s deputy Prime Minister and the Spring Temple Buddha. The Statue of Liberty is thus taller than Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Michelangelo’s David in Florence, Italy. Nicknamed the New Colossus in Emma Lazarus’s poem, the Statue of Liberty is also twice as large as the original Colossus at Rhodes. The Statue of Liberty is able to accomplish this thanks to its pedestal being nearly as tall as the statue itself. Among American statues, the Statue of Liberty is second in height, being beaten by Birth of the New World/Estatua de Colón located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico commemorating the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World.

Image result for statue of liberty planet of the apes

New York’s iconic skyline is easily recognizable with the inclusion of the Statue of Liberty. Even post-apocalyptic works of television and film feature pieces of the statue as a clue to the location of the characters in the work, chief among these is 1968’s Planet of the Apes. Likenesses of the statue are also included as part of political and athletic logos, including the New York Rangers, the New York Liberty, and the Libertarian Party. References and likenesses of the Statue of Liberty are often paired with Uncle Sam as the female counterpart to America personified.

Have you visited the Statue of Liberty?



History Monday #75

The US Navy decides they’d ship it

We the people in order to defend ourselves from foreign naval attacks do hereby commission several ships including one named for the blueprint of our government. The ship bearing that name launches today’s #HistoryMonday.

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On this day in 1797, the USS Constitution is launched. Originally part of an order for construction of six frigates in the Naval Act of 1794, the ship was constructed along with USS United States and the USS Constellation at roughly the same timeframe. The other three ships were delayed in construction thanks to treaties with Algiers. These treaties would nullify the need for construction as provided in the Naval Act.  The USS Constitution and her sister ships were wooden, three-masted heavy frigates of the United States Navy.

Owing her name to Constitution of the United States of America at the suggestion of President George Washington she was built in Boston, Massachusetts, at Edmund Hartt’s shipyard beginning in 1794, to replenish the US Navy after the Revolutionary War. Seeking to pay off debts, the United States had sold off many ships to bring in income. As pirates and other nations began to attack US ships who no longer had British protection, it became obvious that the U.S. needed to establish a standing navy to protect itself during ocean voyages.

USS Constitution saw action in the Quasi-War with France and the First Barbary War but her fame was established in the War of 1812, when she captued numerous merchant ships and defeated five British warships: HMS Guerriere, Java, Pictou, Cyane and Levant. The HMS Guerriere and the USS Constitution’s skirmish and the eventual surrender of HMS Guerriere earned USS Constitution the nickname “Old Ironsides” and helped keep her in service well beyond other ships built at the same time.

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As her fame gained her recognition, specifically with the poem “Old Ironsides” she was refurbished by the US Navy and served as a flagship for the fleet and eventually would become a receiving ship during the Civil War and beyond to help train new sailors.

During the Civil War, the USS Monitor, an ironclad warship was given the name of “New Ironsides” as an homage to USS Constitution and the nickname she earned during the War of 1812. Since USS Constitution was still active during this time, both the nickname and the official name was unavailable for the ironclad warship.

She was eventually retired from active service in 1881, until being designated as a museum ship in 1907. USS Constitution has since sailed on two bicentennial occasions in the Boston Harbor, once in 1997 on the anniversary of her launch and again in August 2012, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of her victory over HMS Guerriere.

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USS Constitution demonstrating her functions on 4 July, 2014

USS Constitution continues to serve as a museum for the public in Charleston Navy Yard in the Boston Harbor. This museum status allows her to be listed as part of the Freedom Trail in Boston recognizing much of the Revolutionary War and post-Revolution sites in the city. The USS Constitution is tasked as a museum to promote understanding of the Navy’s role in war and peace through historic demonstrations and other museum-related functions.

History Monday #74

A crisis 90 miles from the U.S. makes history today

Russia is affecting the election; we need to take action against them. No, this isn’t sentiments ripped from today’s headlines, it’s sentiments from Cold War actors. Today we look at the origins of a pivotal few weeks in American v. Communist relations in today’s #HistoryMonday.

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Pres. John F. Kennedy & Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara discussing the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba

On this day in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis begins. The crisis brought the United States and the Soviet Union to what many thoughts would be the climax of Cold War aggression. Reconnaissance photos taken by a U-2 spy plane showed Soviet-made medium-range missiles in Cuba. These missiles were now placed 90 miles from the American coastline, and if equipped with nuclear warheads, could reach many major American cities.

Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union over Cuba first came to the fore during the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Those tensions grew in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. Cuban refugees with U.S. training attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro and the Communist forces but were unsuccessful in these efforts. Castro fearing a reprisal from the United States, sought to augment the military assistance from the Soviet Union. Cuba received over 20,000 Soviet advisors in the next year. Additionally, Russia placed missiles and strategic bombers on the island to threaten U.S. forces. Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev decided that ratcheting up the threat to the U.S. was necessary to appease his hardliners and deter further intervention by the United States. Khrushchev was already worried about his ability to be elected and remain in power in the USSR.  American missiles with nuclear capabilities of their own were already placed in Turkey and Italy which led to resentment from Khrushchev and the Soviets. Placing the missiles in Cuba was seen by the Soviets as being a reciprocal effort towards America.

Not surprisingly, Americans were angered by the missile sites in Cuba. Hawkish factions in the legislature and the press demanded Pres. Kennedy take swift action against Cuba and the USSR for this bellicose action so near America.

Pres. Kennedy was unsure which option to choose and started EXCOMM (Executive Committee of the National Security Council) to give him some options: Do nothing, Attack, Diplomatic overtures, or Blockade. Each had strengths and weaknesses which Pres. Kennedy weighed out before deciding to blockade the Caribbean Island and prevent more Soviet shipments from arriving.

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Eventually, the blockade proved effective in backing down the Soviets. Communications between the two nations eventually arrived at a compromise that allowed each to save some face. Soviets removed the missiles from Cuba while the U.S. would remove the missiles in Turkey. This agreement by the United States was only agreed on with the stipulation that the removal remain covertly. Pres. Kennedy was worried that removing these deterrents to the Soviets would impact the U.S. Election and his administration.

Cuban-American relations were relaxed in the final portions of Pres. Obama’s tenure, including much of the Cuban embargo. Travel to the Caribbean nation has been more permissible in the last several years but there are still challenges. The shift of power from Fidel Castro to his brother, Raúl began much a thawing of the Cold War tensions between the countries. Fidel’s subsequent death also led to further lessening of tensions between the countries.

Of course, tensions between Russia, Turkey, and the United States are currently in a state of concern for all parties involved. Rather than worrying about Cuba, Syria is the proxy nation being torn apart by the tug-of-war between the more powerful nations. Time will tell whether diplomatic efforts come to bear, and everyone settles down.

Should the U.S. take more provocative actions towards Cuba and the Soviet Union when photos of missiles were discovered?


History Monday #73

Communism returns to the divided homeland of its creators.

East vs. West, a historical divide that is the basis of today’s #HistoryMonday. Added to the East vs. West dynamic, the significance of Cold War factions after the Second World War.  Lass uns anfangen.

On this day in 1949, nearly five months after the Western Allies created the Federal Republic of Germany in West Germany, Soviet Forces create the Democratic Republic of Germany. Criticized by the Upon its creation, Wilhelm Pieck was named the first president, along with Otto Grotewohl as prime minister.

Flag of East Germany

The Democratic Republic of Germany, also called East Germany included Berlin, the former capital of the united German republic existed within this region but was itself divided between West and East German authorities.

After World War II, Germany was divided into Eastern and Western regions to be administered by the Allied Nations. Germany’s defeat in World War II precipitated this division of regions within the country to prevent a rise to power similar to the pattern occurring between the World Wars.

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Eventually Berlin was itself divided by the Berlin Wall in 1961, in an effort by the Communist forces to thwart immigration into the free/capitalist area of West Berlin. Both the Berlin Wall and East Germany became symbols of the loggerheads that pitted the Western Capitalists against Eastern Communists.

As the Soviet Union began reformation processes in the late 1980’s under Mikhail Gorbachev with glasnost and perestroika, the Berlin Wall was torn down. East Germany would also cease to exist in 1990, when its land and people were absorbed into the Federal Republic of Germany.

What do you remember about East Germany?