August the 13th — it wasn't a Friday, but it was unlucky nevertheless — marks the 50th Anniversary of the Construction of the Berlin Wall. This was unquestionably one of those defining moments in history that determines the course of human events for decades and generations to come. T.H.E. Hill, the author of two spy novels about Berlin — The Day Before the Berlin Wall: Could We have Stopped It? and Voices Under Berlin — is a graphic artist as well as an author. He has designed a sheet of commemorative Cinderella Stamps for this anniversary.
Interview with T.H.E. Hill
LN: Why did you decide to design a sheet of stamps to commemorate the Construction of the Berlin Wall?
Hill: Because nobody else was going to. In all the years that I, and others like me, fought the Secret Cold War, it was under the banner of “Peace is our most important product.” That was our motto, because the alternative was unthinkable. We accomplished our mission. The Iron Curtain came down without the Cold War turning hot, but people seem to have forgotten what we accomplished.
On a recent visit to Berlin, we met an old German couple, who, when they discovered that I am an American, thanked me for the food and coal brought in on the Berlin Airlift that kept them and their new-born son alive that very cold winter, and for keeping them out of the clutches of the Russians. They also apologized that the younger generation has forgotten those things, and does not like America anymore.
A friend who teaches Russian at DLIWC (Defense Language Institute, West Coast) put their apology into perspective when he pointed out that almost all his students these days were born after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. To his students, the Cold War is that history lesson they missed on the day that they were sick at home. But not to me. The Cold War and I grew up together, and Berlin was its hometown.
While a whole generation has grown up since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, remembering the 50th Anniversary of its construction will help to keep humanity from making the same mistake twice, I hope. Like Mark Twain says, history may not repeat itself word for word, but it does rhyme a lot. That is why I wrote The Day Before the Berlin Wall and designed the stamps.
LN: Could you explain the iconography that went into the designs of the two stamps on the sheet?