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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