The Gallery – Berlin Wall

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The Berlin Wall, constructed by the German Democratic Republic in 1961, divided East and West Berlin until it was pulled down in 1989 as Communism collapsed and the Cold War ended . 96 miles of wall, 12 ft high, constructed of reinforced concrete blocks, with barbed wire, guard towers and a “death strip” between the two parts of the city where upwards of 100 people died trying to cross from East to West.

We visited Berlin last October, just before the 20th anniversary of its demolition. There isn’t much left of the wall to see but a mile-long stretch of it near the Ostbahnhof was saved in 1989 and 110 artists from 44 countries were invited to create the world’s longest open air gallery. The Western side of the wall had been painted with graffiti and murals for years, but this Eastern side had remained untouched.

The photo above shows a section of the wall painted by Gunter Schaefer who had grown up in West Germany. Named “Fatherland” it combines the German and Israeli flags and refers to two November 9ths: in 1938 when the Nazis attacked German synagogues and arrested 25,000 Jews and the day in 1989 when the wall came down.

Shaefer and the original artists were asked to return to Berlin in 2008 to restore the paintings to their former glory because vandalism, souvenir hunters and erosion had damaged them over the years. The wall here will now be protected by 24 hour security. That’s irony for you.

The wall today is not ugly to look at, with its bright, vivid murals, but it represents a bleak period in Germany’s history so I felt it was a suitable photo for the theme of Ugly in The Gallery this week.


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  1. diney

    April 6, 2010 7:31 pm

    A very good choice to remember the ugliness of the whole shocking era. We went to west Berlin in 1989 a day after the wall began to be pulled down by the bare hands of frightened and bewildered east and west Germans, scrabbling with their fingers and peering through the ragged holes in that mass of concrete after years of imprisonment…I can't begin to explain how it was…but the whole atmosphere will remain with me for ever. It was ugly and yet exciting as so many were suddenly free.

  2. planb

    April 7, 2010 7:47 am

    Great idea! And interesting pic and post too. I've never been to Berlin, but visited the East West border with my godfather who was based in Germany when I was about 8. I've never forgotten, even then, not understanding the stupidity that meant that there were men with guns and dogs stopping me walking into a perfectly ordinary field….

  3. MrsW

    April 7, 2010 7:56 am

    That's definitely a "where were you when…" day isn't it? What a perfect interpretation of the theme – I really love this cos it "fits" and cos I've learned new things here today (sssh don't tell the sprogs – I know everything of course).

  4. redtedart

    April 7, 2010 8:23 am

    Good one! You put lots of thought in this one. Well done you! Def good idea to photograph something tha represents ugliness that happened!

  5. Kath@Parklover

    April 7, 2010 12:58 pm

    Great idea for "ugly". Really appeals to me as a History teacher too!I love Berlin, but the first time I went and could walk straight through the Brandenburg Gates I felt really emotional thinking of how many people would have faced death for trying to cross the wall in the past.

  6. Brighton Mum-Teenage Angst

    April 7, 2010 1:43 pm

    What an absolutely brilliant take on 'ugly', perfect really. Useless info alert: I used to work for the MoD and we had a 3ft length of the berlin wall in one of the corridors and I used to have to run my hand along it everytime I passed.

  7. Louise

    April 7, 2010 1:54 pm

    excellent take on the theme…

    I don't like that it's got that fence around it either.. that's pretty ugly, and ruining the viewing of the murals too!

  8. Trish @ Mum's Gone to...

    April 7, 2010 4:18 pm

    @diney – such a historic time to have been there: I can't imagine how those people must have felt, not quite believing it was happening.

    @planB – I sometimes forget the border between the two countries, not just the city of Berlin itself.

    @Kath – we loved the Brandenburg gate, such a majestic monument. Couldn't quite believe all this had happened in my own lifetime.

    @BrightonMum – so that's where all the bit of wall went!

    @Louise – I'm wondering whether the fencing is still there: it may have been temporary before the 20th anniversary celebrations began. I do hope so. But I read that the artist had to re-paint his mural 44 times in the last 20 years so maybe it's a necessary, if unsightly, protection.

    Thanks to Mrs W, Heidi, Redtedart, What's Happening and Chic Mama for coming over to comment. I really appreciate it and I'm chuffed with my decision to use this photo for the theme this week!!

  9. Barbara

    April 7, 2010 7:48 pm

    Brilliant interpretation, I did look at it and thing "not that ugly" then read your text. The wall itself and what it represented was most definitely ugly.


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