The 9th November 1989 is not so long ago.
On a cold winter’s morning in December, we stood at the Berlin Wall Memorial reading the horrific stories of division and pain, and I could barely stem my tears.
On 13th August 1961, the lives of so many innocent German families were to change forever. I just couldn’t imagine the incredible heartache and despair the residence of Berlin were succumbed to.
A section of the Berlin Wall
Gary and I can remember sitting at home watching the events unfold on TV only 30 years ago.
This is one of the things I find so disturbing is that this is recent history and not something that happened in someone else’s lifetime.
So, when Gary and I headed to Berlin last year to experience how Germany’s capital city celebrated Christmas, we really wanted to visit the Berlin Wall Memorial.
What a year!!
1989 was a significant year in history for many countries, Romania saw the fall of communism, with the overthrow of Nicolae Ceaușescu. Then in the Fareast, China witnessed the Tiananmen Square Protests in Beijing.
Approaching the Berlin Wall
As we walked closer to the Berlin Wall, my steps seemed to get slower, I couldn’t believe we were coming face to face with it.
Berlin Wall along Bernauer Strasse
After just stopping and staring at it for a while, I couldn’t help myself but go and touch the wall. I just laid the palm of my hand on it, where, so many hands must have felt it before.
A little bit of history
Prior to the wall being erected, efforts within Germany were being made by the communist Germany Democratic Republic (GDR) to stop East Berliners migrating to the west. During the late 1940s and 1950s, it is believed that over three million people defected to the west.
Sections removed from the Berlin Wall
It is astonishing to comprehend that the initial barrier was erected over one night.
When Berliners awoke on the 13th August 1961, life would barely be the same again.
The preliminary barrier was of barbed wire; however, within a few days, the wall was being erected, with checkpoints and manned border crossings along the route.
Memories along Acker Strasse
The completed concrete wall was around 68 miles in length and was just under 12 foot in height. In addition, there were over 40 miles of barbed wire fencing and more than 300 look-out towers being manned day and night.
Berlin Wall Memorial
The open-air memorial is so touching, and it was just by here that “no-man’s land” ran along, otherwise known as the “Death Strip”. The location where so many risked and lost their lives for freedom.
It was also here between “no-man’s land” that a cemetery was located. The graves have since been removed.
Berlin Wall East and West
As you stroll around in the memorial grounds by the wall, you just feel this unnerving silent, chilling presence of what occurred here only 30 years ago.
There’s an incredibly touching commemorative wall, which will always stay in my memory. Photographs of innocent people from the very young to the old, with the dates that they lost their lives while trying to cross the strip to a better life.
Commemorative wall at the Berlin Wall Memorial
The stories are so moving too, voices were being played of families that had been separated, during this horrific time.
One was of a family that lived on the eastern side and would stand at their window. They looked out across the wall, and as they were unable to wave at their loved ones, for of fear of being caught, they would stroke their hair instead.
Bleakness of the Berlin Wall
It was so incredibly moving.
The Chapel of Reconciliation that now stands within the Berlin Wall Memorial was founded on the same site where the former Reconciliation Church once stood. When the Berlin Wall erected the church sat in the “Death Strip” and made the church inaccessible. In 1985 the East German government gave the orders for the original church to be blown up.
Chapel of Reconciliation, by the Berlin Wall
Just by the chapel are metal markings on the ground, where so many tunnels were dug in an attempt to reach the west.
One of the tunnels dug under the wall
Watchtower Memorial Strelitzer Strasse
It was also astonishing to see that some of the buildings along Bernauer Strasse, which the wall was erected alongside in 1961, still remain. Murals & pictures are now on the side of them, depicting how time progressed.
Homes along Bernauer Strasse, on the edge of the Berlin Wall
The other image that just sends chills down my spine is the sight of the watchtower, they just shout segregation, controlling and imprisonment.
Watchtower by the Berlin Wall
While walking by the wall, it is so apparent to see which side of the Berlin Wall was on the east and which on the west. As the western section was graffitied and on the eastern side not a flash of colour was to be seen.
Graffitied Berlin Wall
The graffiti-free side of the Berlin Wall
In some of the sections where the wall has been demolished or removed, cast iron rods have been inserted into the ground.
This gives quite a weird perception and almost makes it like a window to the other side.
Cast iron rods repl the Wall
While we visited Berlin, we also headed to Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz.
Checkpoint Charlie was one of the main crossing points between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. It played quite a significant role during this period, although now it has become a bit of a tourist attraction. However, I still wanted to see it.
Part of the Berlin Wall
Potsdamer Platz was completely destroyed during World War II. Then, when the construction of the Berlin Wall began, it ran straight through the centre of the square and made it an even more bleak and uninhabitable area
Berlin Wall sections in Potsdamer Platz
Potsdamer Platz played a pivotal role in the fall of the wall, and its border crossing opened on 11th November 1989.
Today this part of town has completely been regenerated and is home to the Sony centre. As you wander throughout the city of Berlin, you’ll keep seeing markers in the ground where the Berlin Wall would have stood.
Hit the road
If you’d like to discover more of Germany on a road trip and unable to bring your own car give SIXT car hire a go. They cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.
Just along the road from Potsdamer Platz is the Brandenburg Gate, and often been the site of significant historical events. On the night of 9th November 1989, scenes of mass celebrations occurred here. Although, it wasn’t until 22nd December 1989 that the border crossing at Brandenburg Gate was opened.
The Brandenburg Gate
You must visit
Some people may not feel comfortable visiting such a poignant place in our history; however, I was so pleased we did. It isn’t easy reading their stories or walking around the memorial, but it needs to be remembered.
Inspired to visit Berlin?
The Berlin Wall Memorial should be experienced by all.
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