On today’s podcast, I bring you a conversation with Eric Friedman the co-author of The Ghosts of East Berlin
In 1988, a reluctant 10-year-old American boy, Eric Friedman moved to East Berlin. His father Frank was granted a Fulbright grant to lecture at Humboldt University.
Their memoir highlights the challenge of everyday life under Socialism, as the family grappled with both the American Embassy and German Stasi and the joys of simply engaging with East Berliners on the most human level
More about The Ghosts of East Berlin
With the Unites States in the process of trying to build a Wall, now is the time to revisit an era when the U.S. was in the business of tearing them down. In their joint memoir, Ghosts of East Berlin, Santa Barbara, California residents, Celeste McConnell Barber and her son, Eric Friedman, recollect their experience as some of the first and only ordinary Americans to live behind the infamous Berlin Wall.
Their raw memoir is a stark reminder of the destructive power of walls yet an inspiring tale of how the human spirit can overcome the most barbaric of barriers. It was January, 1988 when Celeste and Eric departed to live in East Berlin, the city at the center of Cold War politics – among the first Americans to be invited to the Eastern Bloc under Gorbachev’s glasnost (openness) policy. The late Frank McConnell, Professor of English at U.C. Santa Barbara, had been awarded a Fulbright grant by the International Exchange of Scholars to teach at Humboldt University as part of a global effort to enhance cultural exchange and communications between the West and Eastern Bloc nations.
Ghosts of East Berlin is their story of how an ordinary American Family did their small part to take down the Berlin Wall and in the process have it change them forever.
“Just six months after President Reagan issued his challenge – ‘Tear down this wall!’ — and suddenly we were traveling in a subway through No Man’s Land.
Most remarkable, our family of three became goodwill ambassadors for our country,” – Celeste McConnell Barber “I was only 10 years old, my world instantly expanded from a local to a global perspective. It was a lot to grasp at the time, but the friendships I forged and the foreign view of my home country changed me on a fundamental level.
Twenty-five years later and I am still discovering how those six months impacted me as a child and adult, in my understanding of the responsibility of being an American citizen, and the significance that I am a descendant of European Jews.”
Their memoir highlights the challenge of everyday life under Socialism, as the family grappled with both the American Embassy and German Stasi and the joys of simply engaging with East Berliners on the most human level, walls be damned!
Links and Resources Mentioned on Episode 24 of the Radio GDR podcast.
- The Ghosts of East Berlin
- YouTube Documentary of East Germany’s Palace of the Republic.