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April 9, 2013

Berliners Fight to Preserve the Wall

Watch A Battle to Preserve the Berlin Wall as Cold War Landmark on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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A little more than twenty years ago, the world celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall that separated communist East Berlin from democratic West Berlin. The event precipitated the end of communist Soviet influence in Eastern Europe, and united families that had been divided by the wall for 28 years.

Now, however, Berliners are hoping to preserve what’s left of the wall from destruction as developers plan high-rise apartments to fill their space.

The East Side Gallery is the longest part of the wall still standing; a mile-long stretch that features colorful political murals painted just after the fall of the wall. However, plans to build a 14-story apartment building along the river Spree include removing sections of the wall.

“The new apartments would be built in what was known as no man’s land, the empty space between the wall and the river,” says reporter Carl Nasman. “Nearly 100 people were killed in areas like this one while fleeing from East to West, some of them here.”

Many Germans want to preserve parts of the wall to remind them of past mistakes and ensure they are not repeated. Demonstrators have come to the wall to protest its removal.

But while Berlin still tries to find the right mix of old and new, the construction of the apartments will continue.

“You have to keep memorial sites alive. You have to get people to pass on experiences, especially onto children.” said Dr. Richard Meng, the Berlin Senate Spokesperson. “But there also has to be something new.”


“It was here for 28 years, and everybody hated it. But, nowadays, people love it,” – Man, Berlin.

“I used to live so close to the wall. I looked every day at the wall. And it was very depressing. You can put tons and tons colors on the wall. It will never be beautiful because it is a death machine,” – Thierry Noir, artist.

Warm up questions

1. What was the Berlin Wall?

2. What was the Cold War? Who was involved?

3. What was the “Iron Curtain”?

Discussion questions

1. Do you think it is important to keep sections of the Berlin Wall? Why or why not?

2. What lessons can be learned from the story of the Berlin Wall? What has the fall of the wall come to symbolize?

3. North Korea and South Korea are still divided by a line drawn during the Cold War. How and why are they divided? How does it affect the people living there? Are there other “walls” or dividing lines around the world that you can think of?

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