Matt Frei’s ‘Berlin’

Matt Frei

Matt Frei

Regular readers will know that I have a bit of a soft spot for Berlin, where historical cities are concerned. Therefore I was excited to see Matt Frei’s recent series on the German Capital, which was timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

As his name suggests, Frei is is of German ancestry. Born in 1963 in Essen, West Germany, he left Germany at the age of 10, studied at Oxford and became the BBC’s Washington correspondent. As such he is ideally placed to commentate on the complex and unique story of Berlin. This isnt somebody commenting on Berlin from the outside, but from the inside.

Rather than taking a purely chronological approach – as Andrew Marr has done recently in his ‘Making of Modern Britain’ – Frei quite wisely avoids this easy but confusing option. Berlin has such a twisted and complex history that it makes much more sense explained thematically. That is, to take a theme, and follow it through the ages. As such, the three programmes in the series are each themed on Politics, Architecture and Society. And it makes for quite a balanced and well structured approach.

Frei makes use of some very interesting eyewitness accounts, and some moving interviews. Overall it is very watchable indeed. I hope this isnt his last attempt at history-making. Although a political correspondent, he doesnt dwell too much on high politics. The statesmen and ordinary people do not compete for air time, their experiences complement each other – as seen in JFK’s famous speech in Berlin in 1963.

Like perhaps no other city on earth, Berlin WAS the 20th Century in case study. It is incredible how much change, tension, bloodshed, division, but also creativity and freedom can fill one city in such a short space of time. Its quite a unique place with a character all of its own, and this is something that Matt Frei puts across very well.

The series is still available to view on BBC iplayer, and you can also obtain a free acompanying guide to Berlin from the Open University.

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5 Comments

Filed under Architecture, News, On TV, politics, social history, World War One, World War Two

5 responses to “Matt Frei’s ‘Berlin’

  1. Christopher Ward

    Dear Matt,
    I was thoroughly captivated by your documentary on Berlin. One thing that struck me amidst many other aspects of the airing was the, although just a snapshot, the story of the Russain pilot who embarked upon a mission to obtain the painting of F. the Great due to its significance. I would be certainly very keen to discover more about this man and his failed mission. Would you be able to take a little time out to advise me about this man, something more of the logistics of this mission? I would like to pen a story of this mans endevours. Create a story of faction. Could you assist me, if so that would be wonderful, your help and advice in this matter would be deeply valued. Chris Ward.

  2. James Daly

    Hi Christopher, many thanks for you comment. I’m afraid I haven’t got any connection to Matt Frei. It sounds like a very interesting story, perhaps you could try and contact Matt through the BBC?

    James

  3. John Truswell

    Dear Matt,
    I loved your series on Berlin and will definately buy it when I see it in the shops.I have visited the city four times,twice before the fall of the wall in 1987 and 1989 and twice since.It is my favourite city,and I love the history,architecture,andfeel of the place.I have been studying the language for 3 years,and I am a real lover of everything about the city.I have great respect for the people I met over there who were so polite and helpful and the programme you presented was the best I have seen about it.Hopefully,I will be visiting again soon.Keep up the good work.
    John

  4. James Daly

    Hi John, thank you for comment. Unfortunately I have no connection with Matt, if you would like to speak to him you might be able to through the BBC or the Open University, who assisted with the programme.

    A agree with your sentiments about Berlin, its a unique and fascinating place.

    James

  5. kneasham

    me oma and opa lived in east prussia me oma was born 1917. my mother lived in blankenburg ( where is that) I know my family are from east germany. Oma slept in a cellar during the first invasion of the russians and apparently said she wasn’t doing it again.They came to live somewhere in east Germany ,lived near Rostock . all the family remember the raids day and night from allied bombings. have good stories to tell!” Oma lost her home my nana lost her home and 3children through various means .what happened to all she knew god knows. my grandmother left on a ship from wannemunde? to flensburg as refugees as were thousands of other simple people of that third f….ing reich. I do have a story as do others …… me stepgrandad met me nana and there you go…… i was in BERLIN in 1961 august to see tante marga und oncle emile but then THE WALL WAS BUILT . me only claim to fame. Again a story x Mr. Frei please get in touch.

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