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After The Wall

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  851 ratings  ·  94 reviews
Jana Hensel was thirteen on November 9, 1989, the night the Berlin Wall fell. In all the euphoria over German reunification, no one stopped to think what it would mean for Jana and her generation of East Germans. These were the kids of the seventies, who had grown up in the shadow of Communism with all its hokey comforts: the Young Pioneer youth groups, the cheerful Commun ...more
Hardcover, 182 pages
Published October 26th 2004 by PublicAffairs (first published 2003)
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Apr 28, 2012 added it
Recommended to Jan-Maat by: A book review
Reread this in translation, it seems far less interesting now than when I first read it. A brief book, I came across it, either as a review or excerpts, or both in some news magazine or other way back towards the beginning of the century.

The author was then a young woman looking on entering into puberty just as the DDR/GDR came to an end. It was written I think as Ostalgie was trending after the abandonment of everything associated with the DDR in the immediate post Wende period. Hensel recalls
It has certainly and definitely been both enlightening and also engagingly enjoyable to read in Jana Hensel's Zonenkinder (the English translation of which is titled After the Wall) memoirs and remembrances of the author's childhood and young teenager-hood in the former GDR prior to and immediately post the 1989 collapse and fall of the Berlin Wall and which have felt both delightfully and informatively educational, personal and also thankfully and fortunately not just a negatively angry rant ag ...more
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Communism, Pink Floyd, the Cold War, Gorbachev – these and other terms come to mind when thinking about the Berlin Wall that once encircled West Berlin. Hensel’s book does touch on some of them. However, “After the Wall” is neither a political manifesto nor the attempt of a historian to explain the time from 1945 to 1989. Rather, the book is a very personal walk down memory lane. In eight chapters, the author summons the GDR of her childhood, leading the reader from her classroom to her life as ...more
Jan 13, 2017 rated it liked it
This is written from one person's experience growing up in the former East Germany, and then being thrust into a new way of life after German reunification. The book isn't large about 166 pages and is more of a collection of thoughts and memories written as the author remembers them. It is more about life after reunification rather than before it.
The author views the former East Germany through the rose tinted glasses of childhood. Since she was young while still under the rule of the socialist
Stephen Durrant
Feb 21, 2010 rated it liked it
This book is an important personal account of cultural dislocation. Jana Hensel was born in East Germany and was in her early teens in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell. In her own words, "It frightens us to think that we were but brief guests in our native land." While she is not entirely nostalgic about her childhood in the GDR, she does remember a way of life and a set of values that were essentially wiped away at the time of reunification. So began her attempt to adapt to the reality of Western ...more
Gisela Hafezparast
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The English version of this book is called "After the Wall: Confessions from an East German Childhood"

Very interesting personal story. Jana Hensel explains very eloquently an aspect of the German reunification I had never really thought about, i.e. that really so much of the former DDR and therefore the life and in Jana's case childhood they have grown up with, has to a very large part disappeared in the effort in the East to "catch up" and from the West to reunite. I also left Germany for Engla
Nov 16, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a pain in my neck. If it wasn't for my class, I would not have finished it. Jana Hensel totally annoyed me! Maybe it's my lacking ability to identify with the Eastern-Germany-I-lost-my-home-Theme ... but I doubt that. I'm usually quite interested in history and the event itself is fascinating, also the time and people. But Hensel is just one annoying Ossi.

I hoped to learn something about the German Democratic Republic and the way of life perceived by a mere child and the consequen
This is a pretty interesting book. Jana Hensel is of the last generation of the GDR. The Berlin Wall came down whens he was 13. Her perspective was interesting for me, mostly because we're about the same age. My perspective of East German and Soviet Union kids were equally as foreign as Hensel's description of Western kids.

While I think she paints in very broad strokes - saying things like "we" and "they" or "western people" a lot - it is a fairly well written exploration of what it was like on
Pam Rasmussen
Jul 02, 2008 rated it liked it
I had an au pair who grew up in East Germany, then moved to the West, and I remember her telling me that she missed how the East took care of its residents. The West, she said, seemed rather cold and uncaring in contrast. That would be a surprise to many people who think Communism was all bad. Jana Hensel's book is indeed unique in focusing on the transition required of that generation. But what I found very sad was the sense of loss, confusion and abandonment felt by her parents' generation. An ...more
May 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
Only gave this one a single star. My faculty partner assigned our students to read this text this term and thus I, of course, read it along with them as well. During the reading of this text my students and I had several discussions about the text and our issues with it. One issue is that there is not narrative to the story-- it is all just a collection of memories written in no particular order. Mostly explanations of the GDR. Some of my students mentioned that it just seemed like the author wa ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
What will you do if your country chase to exist and everything that was known to you from one day to another is not there anymore? What would you feel if your new country is full of people that despise you or try to help you and you do not want to be helped? Life after the fall of the wall is different for whom was behind the wall. GDR life described by a girl that was thirteen when "her world" comes to an end and from her parents on, no adults are able to teach her how to live or survive in the ...more
Apr 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
The voice of the author is often irritating, particularly because of the generalizations about groups of people which she makes quite firmly.

Nonetheless, I haven't seen a lot of books on this fascinating topic, so it was interesting. And, it's a really easy, quick read.

Was this young adult non-fiction does anyone know? For some reason, it seemed so, perhaps because of the age of the author during the time period in question.

She has another book in German, I think. Wonder if it was translated.
Nov 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Marieke
Recommended to Daisy by: Muphyn?
Every generation's experience of the GDR is different, from those who were alive before WWII, to their children who were born when East Germany was a "given," to those of different ages who lived through the Fall of the Wall. Hensel makes a point of stressing that she and kids of her generation often need to act as translators for their parents, even though their parents speak the language. Interesting.
Kathy Halsan
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Nathan gave me this book for Christmas. Having visited both East and West Berlin this summer and hearing stories frm some of our tour guides about the end of the GDR, this book was especially interesting. For these young people, they can "never go home again".
Susan Ovans
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Read this right after finishing Petropolis, which was a fictional story of coming of age in the Soviet Union. Jana Hensel, who wrote After the Wall, tells a real-life story of coming of age in the former GDR, known in the U.S. as East Germany, and of feeling adrift when, as a young teenager, the wall fell and her Communist country was reunited with the West.
The problem is that Ms. Hensel tells only her own story, and it's a boring one. It's hard to tell why this book apparently became an instan
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I bought After The Wall by Jana Hensel during a recent trip to Berlin and found it an interesting peek into what life was like in the GDR (East Germany) following the toppling of the wall. Jana was a young teenager in 1990 when Germany reunified, when the whole foundation of how she'd been brought up was stripped away overnight. Here she shares a short account of what that meant not only for her generation, born under a communist regime then having to learn the unwritten rules of the West, but a ...more
Jun 13, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really thought there would be a lot of interesting anecdotes about East Germany, but I only found one or two things interesting and the rest of it came off as whiny.
Aug 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Jana Hensel, the author, witnessed the reunification of Germany in her mid-teens after an entire youth spent being indoctrinating into communism. She does an admirable job articulating the cognitive dissonance both she and her friends experience. It starts early on, with an ingrained loyalty to her homeland while simultaneously admiring the west. As she matures and the global context changes, Hensel tries to fit in with the west in dress and speech while missing the East Germany where she grew u ...more
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. There is something about the generation that was born in the late seventies/early eighties that I find interesting in general (not least bc I am part of it...) but also bc of the major changes we have experienced technologically in our lifetime - but for Jana in 2002, those technological changes aren't even a wisp of what she has to say but rather that of an in-between generation young enough to assimilate to the west but old enough to be deeply conscious of having al ...more
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and speaks to a time that can not be replicated. I found it a slightly annoying read and not sure why exactly. I can understand on a certain level that the citizens of East Germany were asked to change their lives, their existence known up till that time to a radically different culture and society and this necessitated growing pains of more than a few years. But I never developed much empathy towards Jana. It may be a translation thing - reading the novel in English, the memoir may ...more
Liz Thackray
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german
This is an individual account of the experience of one person - a young teenager at the time of the Wende - of how the removal of the boundary between east and west Germany changed her life. It provides some insights - both positive and negative - into life in the German Democratic Republic and also into the implications of living in the new and foreign land East Germany became as the two Germanys were united into a single country.

Not really a book to read in one go but more a book to dip in an
Aiden's  Read's
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book. I read it for a class to answer an assignment sheet essay, and I thought she did a good job explaining who the East and Western Germans are, and explaining about the German Democratic Republc. I was also glad that it was a short read, and most likely. to the point. I am surprised that people gave this a one star review. I am surprised this book is not very popular, nor did it win any prizes. Highly underrated while I know about this novel. I gave it a second chance and it was even be ...more
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Jana was only 13 when the the Berlin Wall came down. She feels her childhood ended at that point. Though it was easier for her than an older person to integrate into the new reality of a unified Germany, she feels both a nostalgia and a bitterness toward the world of her childhood. This memoir was a quick read and it adds a new perspective to the German story.
DNF. This one started out strong, but lost momentum about 1/2 way through. The narative of the story fell apart and the book started to feel like a collection of unrelated anecdotes. There may be something lost in translation here, but I couldn't get myself to finish it.
Karin Blomqvist
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"If you woke up one morning and your country was gone, who would you be?"

The question on the back cover of this book caught my eyes at the Visitor center of the Berlin Wall memorial. The question is a good summary of this well written book, interesting and easy to read. Remarkable!
Christine (TheOtherChristineThatReads) McMillan
2.5 stars.

She had some interesting insights into the cultural destruction of the GDR but overall her grating tone, judgemental writing, and overall lack of anything too novel to say left me very unimpressed
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Funny and illuminating. Saw a bunch of similarities between the author’s parents and my own that I never realized stemmed from living under a socialist regime.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Pretty good. I found the experiences of going from GDR to a unified Germany really interesting I just also felt it was a little scattered overall.
Chelsea McMillen
May 28, 2018 rated it liked it
This is, for the most part, a good book. I am glad she wrote it but wish she had done more with it. However, some of the intricacies may have just been fumbles in translation!
Sharon Cowling
Interesting subject matter but the structure was rather rambling.
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Jana Hensel is a German journalist and author.

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