consigned to history but still in living memory
The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 triggered the
almost total global collapse of communism.
The capital of a re-unified Germany beats to an international
vibe that appears to have all but eradicated the memory of
Just enough of the Wall and symbols of physical and ideaological
division of a bygone era have been retained for the tourists
and school history trips.
The infamy, however, of the 100 miles of closely-guarded concrete
and barbed wire designed to keep the East Germans in (rather
than the "enemy" out) lingers on.
Many cannot forget the 239 who died trying to escape to freedom
in the West. The Orwellian oppression suffocated
art, music and literature as well as life.
A businessman explained the reality of living in a divided
country with a city of millions encircled by the Wall and
guarded by British, French, American and Soviet troops.
Despite having the rigorously checked visas and permits, he
never knew if the East German border guards would let him
through the checkpoints to his buiness contacts in Poland.
After queuing for hours it would often be a seemingly harmless
word or phrase that would upset the guard. Bringing a special
variety of beer for a friend's party resulted in confiscation
- the guard was offended that he thought that the East didn't
have beer. The memories of this harshness still rankled. Forgiving
and forgetting seemed to be equally hard to do.
But the West was just as guilty, playing Ronald Reagan and
Maragaret Thatcher opposite Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker.
Andy Warhol first exhibited the iconic Campbell's soup tin
painting in West Berlin and it seemed the capitalists took
great pains to throw the ultimate in partying, consumerism
and indulgence in its eastern neighbours' faces. The city
became a battleground of ideology while the actual wars were
played out in the poorest nations in the world.
Now there is just under a mile of Wall left as a monument
to human stupidity and inhumanity. Just a couple of months
after the wall came down, artists were invited to graphically
display their thoughts and feelings about almost three decades
of being under siege on its stone slabs. The graffiti and
paintings faded over the next 20 years, in much the same way
as many assumed the memories of living under the threat of
nuclear annilation and Russian invasions faded.
But the memories were as sharp as he reality and just as the
artists were asked to renovate their work last year for the
anniversary, so many people took the time to relive and regale
their experiences in the hope that it would make humanity
think twice before erecting walls to separate itself.