The wall encircled West Berlin not to keep its citizens out of East Germany (which they could visit with a visa), but to prevent East Germany’s citizens from entering West Germany, since once they entered West Berlin they were immediately eligible for West German citizenship and able to travel to the West. Before 1961, 3.5 million East Germans (over 20% of the country’s population) had escaped to West Germany by this method, in the following 28 years, just 5,000 managed to do so, including a number of border guards who defected. While statistics vary, historians believe that at least 100 East Germans died trying to cross the Wall. For obvious reasons, it’s unknown how many people attempted to get across the Wall but neither succeeded nor were killed. The Wall itself was located several meters into East German territory, anyone who managed to cross it still had to run across No-Man’s Land (also in East Germany) to get into West Germany.
Considering its iconic and fearsome history, I personally found the Wall to be visually underwhelming, which I suppose is a testament to how well Berlin has reintegrated. Seen in isolation the concrete slabs of the wall look unexceptional and they were much shorter and thinner than I had expected, although that’s cold comfort of court to the friend and loved ones of those who died trying to cross it. Much of what has been preserved survives because it became a popular template for graffiti artists in East German, a fitting combination of an authoritarian monument and a subversive art form. You can see some of best examples of this on a few sections scattered and reerected around Potsdamer Platz (see my separate entry), one of the commercial centers of modern Berlin (former located in the east) and at the so-called "East Side Gallery" near the old East Berlin Train Station (Ostbahnhof) on Mühlenstrasse where some of the best graffiti art from East Berlin is visible in a single place.
Ironically, I thought the most powerful section of the Wall to visit was the "Topography of Terror" ("Topographie des Terrors") memorial, which uses the wall as a backdrop for an outdoor museum with information on the Nazi seizure of power and that regime’s barbarity. Since it’s located below ground level and there’s an overhanging roof (to protect the exhibits from the elements) it physically creates a certain kind of claustrophobic and the graphic photographs and text leave little to the imagination. It’s a mistake to conflate Nazi and Communist atrocities, although the USSR and Nazi Germany were Allies at the beginning of the Second World War (and the USSR held on to the territory it conquered after the war), but authoritarian regimes share a desire for control, regardless of their politics. This juxtaposition also illustrates how the people of what was East Germany suffered under over half a century of authoritarian rule between 1933 and 1989.
For further information see www.berlin-wall.org
Results 1-9of 9 Reviews
London, England, United Kingdom
October 28, 2012
From journal Berlin 2012
by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
December 9, 2009
From journal Berlin - Monuments
Queens, New York
July 11, 2007
While I was staying in the Eastern part of Berlin, my host felt in was necessary to visit the Berlin Wall Museum, and he couldn't have been more right. The remnants of the Wall are everywhere, with a brick path running throughout the city, showing where the wall once stood. I even believe that there is a Wall tour that follows the path, through Check Point Charlie and all around the city. But, back to the museum. We walked from where we were staying in East Berlin to the museum, and we got there, we were exhausted. When we entered, I believed we only paid a couple of euros and were immediately awe-struck by this place. The museum is multi-leveled, and you start from the bottom and work your way up. The first room consisted of videos of the Wall and people trying to get over it and not usually succeeding, the timeline of the Wall and the basic history of it.
As we ascended, the information, as hard to stomach as it was, was extremely detailed. When we reached the top floor, there was an observation deck that looks out over one of the still existing portions of the Wall and one of the old towers that overlooked everything. It was nothing less than surreal to see this sight of what Berlin used to be like when it was war torn. So, while in Berlin, I would highly suggest this museum just for the sheer fact that it is an amazing sight to see. And, if you can, try to take the Wall walking tour. I truly regret not doing it, but have heard that it is unbelievable.
From journal World Cup 2006 Berlin
by Mandan Lynn
Smithwick, South Dakota
January 24, 2007
From journal Berlin: Little Time in a Big City
by Shady Ady
Hinckley, England, United Kingdom
June 1, 2006
From journal A Week in Berlin
August 15, 2005
From journal Europe in May
August 8, 2003
From 1961 up until 1989 the city of Berlin and actually the whole of Germany was divided into East and West. The wall was not circular but would sort of zig zag around the city. There are still small sections of it remaining as a memory of the past and a tourist attraction. It's really something to touch that wall, which has had so much happen around it.
From journal Berlin the german Capital
February 7, 2003
From journal Weekend in Berlin
Nottingham, United Kingdom
July 22, 2002
From journal Berlin - a city with a past, and a future