This month, Germany marks 50 years since the building of what may have ranked as the ugliest piece of architecture in human history -- the Berlin Wall, die Mauer as they called it.
It is gone now, along with the totalitarian state that erected it to imprison its own citizens. It seems inconceivable that some Germans today are expressing nostalgia for it ... but it is human nature over time, in all societies, for the rough edges of memory to soften and blur.
My father visited then-East Berlin in the 1980s,when it was still under the Communist boot heel. He remembers the sadness on the faces of the people, and the grim, gray streets.
In my home library is an old book from that era,"Berlin, East and West." It closes with this note:
"There is a popular Berlin song with a refrain that goes, 'In fifty years it'll all be over' ... These are the words of the optimist. The pessimist knows that short of nuclear holocaust, the only thing safe to predict about the future of East and West Berlin is that they will go on existing ..."
The optimists were right this time. Today, a reunited Berlin has regained its place among the great metropolises of the world, with a people reknowned for generosity and zest for life.