Top 5 Facts about the Berlin Wall Memorial


Image: Pixabay

The Berlin wall is such a memorable spot in Germany. It continues to play a very big role in Germany’s history. The Berlin Wall Memorial, also known as Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer is 1.4 kilometers long and covers an area of 4.4 hectares. The 12-foot-high wall made of concrete and barbed wire were two walls, with a land mine area in the middle, watchtowers with machine gun welding guards, guard dogs, and maximum security. It was a death trap! During the time of the feud, Nikita Khruschev finally agreed to have the wall set up because many of his people were rapidly fleeing to West Berlin, even though years back in 1951, the USA had urged them to put one up and he refused. 

The Berlin Wall Memorial was opened in remembrance of the people and the events which took place during the division of the city by the Berlin Wall. The Memorial, which is in Bernauer Strasse in the middle of the city, covers a little of the Berlin wall strip and has some of the remains of the Berlin Wall and the preserved grounds behind it. This feature gives a real picture of what the memorial represents. 

Here are some facts about the Berlin Wall and the Berlin Memorial Wall!

1. Why was the Berlin Wall put up?

Image: Wikipedia

The Berlin Wall was put up before the Cold War, by leaders in East Berlin, who wanted to keep fascists and spies from West Berlin out. It was also meant to reduce the rate of defections from East to West Berlin. Between 1949 and 1961, many professionals and skilled workers were running away from East Berlin to West Berlin. The construction of the Berlin Wall began on 13th August 1961 and was put up by the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic who were the East Germans. The barbed wire and concrete wall stayed up until 9th November 1989; when it was taken down. All this time, Berliners would not cross to the other side- families, and friends were kept apart and did not see each other for the 28 years that the wall was up, and the city was divided. Germany was split into four Allied Occupied Zones after the Cold War. Berlin was divided into two- the Eastern side (part of the eastern side of the country) which was under the UK, USA, and France; and the West went under the Soviet Union.  

2. Many people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall

Image: Wikipedia

More than 150 people are reported to have died attempting to cross the Berlin Wall from the East Side of Berlin to West Berlin. More than 5, 000 people are said to have successfully crossed the elaborately set up wall! It was not a simple place to cross, but people somehow became creative, with some going inside the sewers, using hot air balloons, and even digging tunnels among other ways. Many were caught and prosecuted but some were successful like the Bethke Brothers, then some were not lucky as they died attempting to cross, and others were even shot. The division of the city at Wedding and Mitte and other parts of the city were peculiar. At some points, some parts of the streets or buildings belonged to East Berlin and the other part in front belonged to West Berlin! 

3. The mistakenly opened gate

Conrad Schumann escaping to West Berlin
Image: Pinterest

In 1989, the gate was opened. It was meant to be opened, but it happened a tad bit early! East Berlin’s Communist Party Spokesperson, told the people that things were changing and that they could interact with Berliners from the other side of the fence; and even be able to travel to the other side. The news was to be shared the day after bit by evening, word had spread quickly and Berliners were at checkpoints and the gate chanting that the gate should be opened. This was the beginning of the reunification of Berlin. 

4. The building of the Berlin Wall Memorial


A few years after the Berlin Wall was taken down, the Berlin Wall Memorial was set up. It was declared that the section; part of the border which ran across the Sophien Parish Cemetery should be set up as a memorial. That was on October 2nd, 1990, and the memorial aimed to act as a remembrance for the people and victims of the Berlin Wall, and also the division in Berlin. In 1994, a competition was held for the design of the memorial. Kohlhoff & Kohlhoff won the completion against more than 259 other competitors who had entered their entries and after several years of working on the memorial, it was dedicated on the 13th of August 1998. There are two steel walls which enclose a part of where the wall used to be. 

5. The documentation of the Berlin Wall Memorial

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Every memorial or monument serves as a reminder of what happened at a certain place at a certain time. It plays an important part in the generation coming after to learn about their origin and what happened to those who lived before them. Memorials have documentation that shows the people or activities which took place. After the Berlin Wall Memorial was done and dedicated, the Berlin Wall Association Senate was created in 1997. The senate was tasked with opening and spearheading the documentation of the activities which took place when the wall stood, dividing Berlin. The Senate was meant to open a documentation center at the parish of the Reconciliation Church, which opened in 1999. The parish is used as a reminder, a place which held education and facts about the berlin wall and the events which surrounded the wall; it was also a significant event since it was opened on the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall Memorial, the Merienfield Refugee Center Museum, the Günter Litfin Memorial, and the East Side Gallery are all under the Berlin Wall Foundation. 

Some of the things that one can experience while at the Berlin Wall Memorial, include: Monument in the Memory of the Divided City and the Victims of the Communist Tyranny and also the Window of Remembrance