For those who grew up in the Cold War era, the Berlin Wall was an immutable fact of life; the once great European city would always be divided both physically and ideologically by “The Wall” as it was known.
For those of us not in Germany or the Eastern Soviet Bloc countries behind the “Iron Curtain”, the Wall was a symbol of oppression, a warning to reject the Stalinist East and remain true to the democratic notions of the West.
For those living in Berlin it was a daily reminder of their disconnection from friends and family; a true restriction of their personal and national freedoms. The shoot to kill orders of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) government, were a reminder that The Wall was more than a fence, it was a death sentence for those trying to cross it without permission.
The Wall was ostensibly erected by the GDR to keep out fascists from the west, but in fact it’s purpose was to stem the flow of East Germans defecting to the west via West Berlin. Between its erection in 1961 and final dismantling in 1989, some 200 people are believed to have been killed attempting to cross over.
And then, on November 9th, 1989, the people of Berlin tore the wall down.
A sense of relief and celebration was felt not just by the long suffering Berliners, but by the world. Footage of Berliners tearing down sections of it with their hands, dancing, singing and laughing with their neighbours, who had been disconnected from them for 45 years, brought tears and joy to the world. We all celebrated with and for Berlin.
Today, on the banks of the River Spee, the remaining section of “The Wall” is a monument to freedom, the East Side Gallery. Artists from around the world were invited to contribute to painting a series of artworks. It is a stunning and emotional collection of images which is spread over a 1.5km section of the remaining wall.
For many visitors to Berlin, the Gallery seems little more than an opportunity to get another great Instagram picture. For us it was a moving and somewhat emotional historical site; is that perhaps showing our age? Possibly but it felt important to remember and discuss what had happened here as we freely walked where many had been unable to not that long ago.
Showing extraordinary patience, Ian waited for the SS (selfie stickers) to move on before capturing an image of the artworks and has now put together a collage of those images and composed a short track to go with it.
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I heard about this gallery! When is good time to visit this place ?
Definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in history or politically aware. The graffiti and artwork depicting the time of conflict remind us of what Berlin was like in those days. And that it should never be repeated. A very thought-provoking display.
My wife and I visited Berlin several years ago and spend quite some time at the East Side Gallery. We were amazed by the stories that were told through art, and learned so much about the culture and strive for freedom that was heard around the world. We look forward to our visit back to this gallery and city that holds a part of history that we can continue to learn from..
I visited Berlin when the wall was still up. I still remember the atmosphere of the city as being oppressive and depressing. I would love to go back. I’ve been told by many the city is now vibrant and a place to visit. There is a piece of the wall in Seoul, South Korea. I used to live in Seoul and was surprised to find it sitting in a small square in the downtown area.
I remember being a freshman in college when the Berlin Wall came down. I had just started studying Russian, and was over at my friend’s place in the “Russki Dom” (a language-specific housing option at my campus where students could learn the language by living with exchange students from Russia). We were all glued to the television, watching that wall come down. What an amazing time, and your summary of what it meant is spot on.
Hi Beth, thanks for reading and commenting. It was an enormous event in our lives wasn’t it? But it must have been very emotional watching it with your fellow students. If only we had learnt from our mistakes and stopped building walls!
Wow, what a sight and what an emotional place for so many. I also remember when the Wall came down and just reading so much about people’s stories. So inspiring to see the creations in place today.
Hi Rob, thank you for commenting on our post. It is an inspiring monument to freedom and thoughtful way to remember the turbulent years of the former Soviet era.
Wow! The paintings are very beautiful and quite heartfelt. I never knew about this historical event. Glad the wall was finally teared down. Thanks for sharing this reflective post.
Hi Shaily, thank you for your comments
Wow… I would definitely go there one day. I have never been to berlin. It must be surprising me. Would love to visit after read your post!
Hi WiDya, thanks for commenting and your kinds words. We hope you can get to Berlin soon
Haven’t visited Berline yet, but I would love to see The Wall with my own eyes. I like such historical sites
Hi Baia, we hope you can get to Berlin soon. Check out our blog for more information when you are planning your trip. Thanks for commenting
This is a powerful piece and video. It is very important to know at least a little history before visiting a place. The wall in Berlin coming down was a sign of hope and progression. I hope the world would quickly learn from its ugly past.
Hi Kareemah, you are so right it is important to learn from history and it’s impact on our lives now. Thanks for commenting
I did now grow up during this time so I enjoyed learning what you shared. Thanks for the information!
Hi Lianne, thanks for commenting. We are glad you enjoyed the blog post
What a great video and tribute to the tearing down of the wall. I didn’t know that the history behind the wall art.
Hi Marta, we are glad we could help you learn about this fascinating memorial. Thanks for commenting
I remember that day very well. Yes, it was a huge relief when the wall came down and Europe was once again united. Sad that today we have build virtual walls.
Hi Gibbs, thank you for commenting. It was a momentous day for all of us wasn’t it, hopefully some of us learnt from those lessons and there are not as many walls