A goodbye to the Berlin wall


The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. So far nothing has beaten the New York Times’s excellent interactive feature on the route of the Berliner Mauer (thanks Chris). The way you can slide between the images of then and now is one of the most inspired uses of interactivity I think I’ve ever seen on a newspaper website. It is distinctive because it has an almost Victorian slowness to it, like the kind of end-of-the-pier attraction you only ever come across in museums, these days.

Other coverage of note (I’ll hopefully add more later): Jana Scholze, writing in Icon Magazine, on the final demolition of another symbol of post-war Berlin. The Palast Der Republik (above) doubled as the DDR’s parliament building and, I kid you not, a discotheque.

“The “Palace of the Republic” was somehow the anti-symbol of the socialist reality while at the same time representing the ideals and visions of its people. The modernist glass and steel box by architect Heinz Graffunder seemed to represent a young country confidently looking into its future. True to its name, it was a house for the people. Its open doors and easy accessibility signified the intended audience: everyone, the whole republic. It was a place to go, to meet, to spend time. Not surprisingly, many visitors to the Palast seemed unaware of its main function: it was the seat of the DDR’s parliament.”

Also worth looking at is Timothy Garton Ash, writing in the Guardian, on the precise moment the cold war ended:

The first frontier crossing to be opened was at Bornholmerstrasse, on a bridge that goes over the S-Bahn, the overground city railway. My friend Werner Krätschell, a pastor of the East German protestant church which did much to shelter the East German opposition, was among the early ones to come across. It was soon after 11pm. The frontier guards put a stamp in his ID card, across his photograph. He checked with them that he could come back.

No, they replied, that stamp means you are emigrating permanently. He had left two young children at home, so he tried to turn round his car, to go back. But just as he was trying to turn round, in the narrow frontier crossing leading on to the bridge, a frontier soldier came running up and shouted to his colleague: “Comrade, a new order! They can come back.” So Werner drove on into the west.

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