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Retired high school teacher holds presentation about history of Berlin Wall

MUNCIE, Ind. — During the summer of 1961, Tom Schwartz had an experience that would influence him for the rest of his life. 

“In 1961, the wall went up and started with barbed wire and concrete blocks, and people realized very quickly that this would be one of their last chances to escape,” Schwartz said. 

When the Berlin Wall was built, Schwartz was an exchange student from Burris Laboratory School in Germany. In his presentation, he shared the history of the Berlin Wall and some of his experiences during his time in Germany. According to Schwartz, he also showed what he calls an iconic photo of Konrad Schumann, an East German border guard, jumping over the Berlin Wall to freedom. 

The Berlin Wall was up for 28 years before it fell in 1989.

“The problem is for something like this [presentation], there is so much information, and so many anecdotes, that I could tell that go until 5 o’clock,” Schwartz said. 

His experiences in Germany influenced his personal life and career. Schwartz was a German teacher at Bluffton High School and created Bluffton’s exchange program by himself before his retirement. 

He also taught at the University of Pittsburg for two years, near Chicago for 11 and Bluffton for 27. Nine of those years were in Germany for an Indiana University program.

Now, Schwartz will share more of his experiences at his presentation, “Anecdotes from Behind the Berlin Wall,” which will be offered by the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center at the WestMinister Village. 

Contact Emma Matlock with comments at emma.matlock@bsu.edu.