A former West Berliner tells of family life divided by the Wall, being surveilled by the Stasi

Photo by Sylvia Cunningham


As of this week, the Berlin Wall has been gone for longer than it stood. The world may know “The Wall” through memorials and iconic photos, but stories from the Berliners who lived through it offer a nuanced glimpse into this complex chapter in the city’s history. We heard one of these stories from 87-year-old Hildegard Hofmann, who lived in West Berlin with her family throughout the Cold War. 

Like many in Berlin at the time, Hofmann and her family were shocked by the sudden news of the wall’s construction. Her mother lived in Borkwalde, a small town 60 kilometers south of Berlin, and their relationship, Hofmann later learned, was a target of Stasi surveillance.

Hofmann recalls feeling euphoric when the wall finally fell. She hopes there’s a lesson in it all that the coming generation never forgets: the importance of freedom, and that it’s something worth fighting for.

Photo by Sylvia Cunningham.