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Iowans Remember The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

Thirty years ago this month, the Berlin Wall fell. It was both a symbolic and a physical division, and during this hour of River to River, Iowans who lived in East and West Germany share their first-hand accounts of life before and after this moment in history with host Ben Kieffer, who was working as a reporter in Germany when the wall fell. 

UNI History Professor Kenneth Atkinson, a former document courier for the US Army Berlin Brigade, delivered classified documents and other objects across the "iron curtain" from 1984-1987. He talks about what he witnessed in Berlin as a messenger. 

Hannah Trebec grew up in East Berlin less than a block from the wall.  She worked for the East German Police in the traffic department before committing treason by traveling to West Berlin at age 20, despite previously being told the borders would be closed for another hundred years. She recounts the years she spent living in communist-ruled East Berlin, utilizing the radio as an escape. 

"When I contemplated suicide, I locked myself in my room and one day I decided just to turn the radio on," Trebec says. "...I listened to this voice and I said 'wow I like these rolling R's,' and it was American Top 40 with Casey Kasem."

Valeska Nygren was only eight years old when the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, suddenly cutting her off from friends and family in the Eastern part of the country.  She recalls her family relying on sending letters and packages across the wall in the 1960s. As the years went by, she says they were able to visit East Germany as tourists, under close watch.


  • Kenneth Atkinson,  former document courier for the U.S. Army Berlin Brigade, University of Northern Iowa Professor of History
  • Hannah Trebec, formerly lived in East Germany and Des Moines
  • Valeska Nygren, formerly lived in West Berlin, West Germany and Boone

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Rick Brewer is a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River