The Wall Is Gone

Three Zeissians report how they experienced 9 November 1998.

Dr. Dieter Brocksch

then working as the Microscopy Product Manager in Oberkochen,
in 2011 Director of the Technical Information and Exhibition Center

Having grown up in West Germany, East Germany was a distant foreign country for me, despite family ties. Far away from the action in Berlin, I asked myself, “Will it end well? Will those in power in the German Democratic Republic handle this like they handled the uprising on June 17, 1953? Will they really agree to a permanent opening?”

I was happy that the people of the GDR perhaps had a chance at last to escape what the West viewed as restrictive conditions. The euphoric festivities were rather unsettling for me, as I didn’t expect the East German government, or the Soviets, to put up with it for long.

I had been with the company just three years on the day the Wall fell and was working in product management for the Microscopy business group. For me, the microscopes made in Jena were competing products only in a few regions of the world. At this point there was no thought of reuniting the two companies - Carl Zeiss in Jena and Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen - in the wake of the events of November 1989.

 

Founding of the Oberkochen facilities in 1947

Founding of the Oberkochen facilities in 1947

Founding of the Oberkochen facilities in 1947
Trainees in Oberkochen in 1973

Trainees in Oberkochen in 1973

Trainees in Oberkochen in 1973

Dr. Herbert Schaden

2011 Carl Zeiss MicroImaging,
back then a Ph.D. student at the University of Ulm

At the time the Wall fell in November 1989, I had just begun my dissertation at the University of Ulm (in the biophysics department). I was in contact with Carl Zeiss as a customer, because we made intensive use of ZEISS microscopes in the laboratory. With the fall of the Wall, a great desire of mine became reality: that divided Germany would again become one country, hopefully with common goals. However, my first personal contact with the eastern states wasn’t until about five years later, on my first trip to Jena in the summer of 1994 for a job interview with Carl Zeiss Jena in microscopy. I’m happy to be part of the reunification process at Carl Zeiss – especially in microscopy – and am hopefully making valuable contributions. To be sure, this journey has not always been easy, but the fact that it was successful is reflected in microscopy’s prevalence in the company today.


Jena 1945

Jena 1945

Jena 1945
In front of the main Jena facility in 1974

In front of the main Jena facility in 1974

In front of the main Jena facility in 1974

Anita Tobisch

Back then in the Personnel division of the Combine VEB Carl Zeiss Jena,
later, until retirement in 2010, in the Personnel Department of Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH

I had heard in the news that the Wall had been opened up in Berlin. It was incredible. It came as a complete surprise to all of us! The next day it was the only topic of discussion at work. All we talked about in the plant was the fall of the Wall, and televisions were set up.

We were all just very happy and saw everything in a positive light. I remember very clearly when the Wall was built. My grandmother’s birthday was on August 13th. We took the train from Bernau, a small town on the edge of Berlin, through East Berlin to West Berlin to see her and suddenly had to leave the train. Nobody knew what was going on.After the Wall was constructed, I didn’t think I’d ever see my relatives again, let alone that the border would ever be reopened.

The great joy at the fall of the Wall was, however, soon followed by fear: what would happen at Carl Zeiss in Jena? Who would keep their jobs? Many of the staff who lost their jobs wouldn’t speak with their former colleagues any more, and were sometimes almost hostile. That was very disappointing. I had always thought that the East and West would integrate much more quickly, but that will apparently take a while after all.

 

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