The Berlin Wall is, without doubt, one of the two most famous walls in the world. The other famous wall being the Great Wall of China. While the Great Wall of China is kept in excellent condition today and the entire wall is protected, the Berlin wall is not treated in the same way. While some sections of the Berlin wall are protected others are not. This year a large part of the Berlin wall was demolished to make way for new condos in the city. It has caused many to debate over how the wall is treated and what the future should hold.
The Berlin wall was built in 1961 as a dividing line between East and West Berlin. West Berlin was a place of democracy while East Berlin was communist-run. The West was far more wealthy than the East and life was incredibly difficult on the East side of the wall. Between the years 1949 and 1961 2.6 East Germans (out of a total population of 17 million) escaped to West Berlin. The wall was erected in 1961 to stop more East Germans fleeing to the West. Of course, at the time the East German authorities called the wall the anti-fascist protection barrier, as they highlighted it was to protect East Germans from the West. Yet the truth was the opposite and as more and more skilled and intelligent workers fled to the West, the East was facing economic collapse and had to act to stop them.
The wall was 154 kilometers in length and four meters high. The wall was lined with 300 guard towers to ensure no one could cross. The building of the wall was an event that could not be stopped. If a house lay in the way it became a part of the wall. Its windows and doors were boarded up and those who were previously living there were left with nothing, there are reports that many jumped from their own upstairs windows to avoid being imprisoned inside.
The wall itself was the first barrier, it was then followed by something called the death strip, an area of nails, trenches, and more. It is widely debated how many people successfully fled during the time of the wall. Some estimates say that 5,000 were successful while 138 died in trying. The most famous attempt was a tight rope walker who crossed a disused power line, he broke two arms in the process.
The wall came down in 1989. After ongoing political pressure, the East said they would loosen restrictions to enter and exit the country. Soon people started to take to the streets with sledgehammers and angle grinders and tore down the wall at will. It took two years to remove most parts of the wall yet some still stand today. As you can imagine the Wall became a symbol of hate and division in Germany. Tearing it down was an act of freedom and no one wanted a single piece of the wall to remain.
As time went on people started to understand the role the wall played in history and how significant it was. The symbol of hate was now a symbol of freedom and many fought to keep parts of it. There are still some segments in place with six key points that are visited regularly by tourists. The most popular spot is The East Side Gallery as it is covered in paintings by famous artists and is over 1,000 meters in length.
While some of these areas are protected there are other, less important parts that are not. Most recently a 60-meter stretch was demolished to make way for some new condos. Historians in the area were upset that it was removed and feel as much of the wall as possible should be kept as a reminder of a dark moment in their past. What do you think? Should the wall make way for modern life, or should it be kept in place as a symbol of the division that once divided the city?