Please note: These pictures were taken in February 2020 before travel was restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I was puzzled at the sight of countless wads of colorful chewed-up gum stuck on the 12-foot (3.6 m) concrete sections of the Berlin Wall near the Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz railway station entrance!
I was expecting to find these concrete slabs protected from the damaging elements of dirt and rain, as well as, time. After all, these are historic artifacts.
Soon my puzzlement was replaced by awe. The fact that I could see such detail in 3-D meant that I was here, looking at a piece of history that I had only seen in textbooks!
Reading the information panels about the Berliner Mauer jogged my memory about what I had learned about it in school.
The Berlin Wall
On August 13, 1961, East German soldiers laid down barbed wire to stop movement between West Berlin and East Berlin. Its purpose was to prevent East Germans (living under communism) from using West Berlin as a gateway to West Germany (which was democratic). Construction on the Wall with concrete began two days later. The Wall’s length around all of West Berlin was 96 miles/155 km.
November 9, 1989 is known as the date the Berlin Wall fell. However, active demolition of it didn’t begin until the following summer. Since then, numerous museums, libraries, universities, parks, and gardens around the world have acquired sections of the Wall. Today, these sections stand as symbols of triumph over repression.
For instance, the largest section of the Wall outside of Germany was located in Washington, DC, in the now-closed journalism museum, Newseum.
The Berlin Wall at Newseum in Washington, DC
During my visit to Newseum in 2017, I got to see remnants of the Wall, as well as a 32-foot tall watchtower that stood near Checkpoint Charlie.
As moving as it was to see remnants of the Wall in the museum, nothing compares to seeing the Wall where it actually stood for nearly three decades.
The Berlin Wall on Bernauer Straße
In addition to Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz, I got to see a section of the Berlin Wall along Bernauer Straße:
The side with art and writing on it faced West Berlin while the unmarked side faced East Berlin.
The Death Strip was the place where East German guards were instructed to fatally injure anyone trying to flee. At least 139 people are known to have lost their lives trying to escape.
In between the border of East Berlin to the wall (shown above) were several other obstacles, including a ditch, a sandbank, watchtower, guard dogs, spikes on the ground, and an electrified wire fence.
In addition, the tops of the Wall were curved to prevent people from climbing over.
Inside the Documentation Center, visitors get a glimpse into the period of 1961-1989 through interactive displays of photographs, news reels, audio clips, maps, as well as movie clips that featured the Berlin Wall.
Postcard: Children in West Berlin, 1966
The way I see it: As the boys are doing the wholesome act of buying milk (“Milch”) from a store next to the Berlin Wall, the image illustrates innocence maintained and going about normal life despite abnormal conditions.
My related posts on Visiting Berlin in February 2020:
- Visiting Berlin: Where to Eat
- Visiting Berlin: Pariser Platz and the Brandenburg Gate
- Visiting Berlin: ‘Like You! Friendship – Digital and Analogue’ Exhibition at the Museum für Kommunikation