Episode 02: The Wall: Legacy of Divided Berlin

Jeffrey Rathke

Jeff Rathke

President of AGI

Jeffrey Rathke is the President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining AICGS, Jeff was a senior fellow and deputy director of the Europe Program at CSIS, where his work focused on transatlantic relations and U.S. security and defense policy. Jeff joined CSIS in 2015 from the State Department, after a 24-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, dedicated primarily to U.S. relations with Europe. He was director of the State Department Press Office from 2014 to 2015, briefing the State Department press corps and managing the Department's engagement with U.S. print and electronic media. Jeff led the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, he was deputy chief of staff to the NATO Secretary General in Brussels. He also served in Berlin as minister-counselor for political affairs (2006–2009), his second tour of duty in Germany. His Washington assignments have included deputy director of the Office of European Security and Political Affairs and duty officer in the White House Situation Room and State Department Operations Center.

Mr. Rathke was a Weinberg Fellow at Princeton University (2003–2004), winning the Master’s in Public Policy Prize. He also served at U.S. Embassies in Dublin, Moscow, and Riga, which he helped open after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Rathke has been awarded national honors by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as several State Department awards. He holds an M.P.P. degree from Princeton University and B.A. and B.S. degrees from Cornell University. He speaks German, Russian, and Latvian.



Mary Elise Sarotte

Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies

An expert in the history of international relations, Mary Elise Sarotte is the inaugural holder of the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Distinguished Professorship of Historical Studies at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Sarotte is also a research associate at Harvard University's Center for European Studies. Sarotte earned her AB in History and Science at Harvard and her PhD in History at Yale University. She is the author or editor of five books, including The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall and 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe, both of which were selected as Financial Times Books of the Year, among other awards. Following graduate school, Sarotte served as a White House Fellow, then joined the faculty of the University of Cambridge, where she received tenure before accepting an offer to return to the United States to teach at USC. Sarotte is a former Humboldt Scholar, a former member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

When the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, it was a surprise to many. For an entire generation, the Berlin Wall was the most iconic physical manifestation of the Cold War: a flashpoint in the conflict between East and West, a scar across a city, a reminder of division of Germany after the Second World War.

In Episode 2 of The Zeitgeist, AGI President Jeff Rathke talks with Mary Sarotte, author of 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe and The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall, about the events that led the East German police to open the border that November night, about how Germans and Americans alike reacted to the news, and about the broader legacy of the Berlin Wall for today.

Read more on the Fall of the Berlin Wall from AGI.


Jeff Rathke, President, AGI


Mary Sarotte is the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Distinguished Professorship of Historical Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Dr. Sarotte is also a faculty member of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs and a research associate at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies.

In the mid-1990s, AGI acquired a piece of the Berlin Wall now on display at JHU’s School of Advanced International Studies. It stands “in tribute to the success of the German-American partnership and as a reminder that freedom can never be taken for granted.”









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Support for this episode is provided in part by the Steven Muller New Initiatives Fund.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.