Crosses for Berlin Wallvictims sparks controversy

3rd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

3 November 2004 BERLIN - A rebuilt section of the Berlin Wall with a field of crosses as a memorial to those killed while trying to escape to the West between 1961 and 1989 has fuelled an angry controversy in the German capital.

3 November 2004

BERLIN - A rebuilt section of the Berlin Wall with a field of crosses as a memorial to those killed while trying to escape to the West between 1961 and 1989 has fuelled an angry controversy in the German capital.

The 120-metre wall, constructed out of original segments, has been erected at the legendary Checkpoint Charlie where American and Soviet tanks once faced off muzzle-to-muzzle at the height of the Cold War.

Behind the wall are 1,065 wooden crosses in what would have been the death strip. Standing tightly packed on top of white gravel, each of the three-metre-high crosses bears the name of a victim.

"Everyone must know what price we paid for freedom," said Alexandra Hildebrandt, head of the Berlin Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, who organised both the rebuilt wall  and crosses.

Hildebrandt says her objective is simply to create a site to commemorate those killed while seeking flight to the west.

Artists from Cyprus, Israel and South Korea, who also have made dividing barriers, have been invited to paint the wall like the original.

But critics of Hildebrandt‘s private project are numerous.

Berlin's urban planning authorities term it "an unbearable commercialisation and privatisation of a commemoration" - a reference to the 15th anniversary of Berlin Wall's opening on 9 November.

Maria Nooke, a spokeswoman for the separate wall Memorial Place lambasted the project: "It‘s like ‘Disneyland‘," she said.

City officials including the conservative mayor of Berlin's central Mitte district, Joachim Zeller and cultural senator Thomas Flierl, a member of the successor party to east Germany‘s communists who built the original wall and are now called the Party of
Democratic Socialism (PDS), boycotted Sunday‘s opening ceremony for the wall and crosses.

Flierl says he wants to investigate whether any planning or other regulations have been violated by the wall and crosses.

Berlin's City Development senator, Ingeborg Junge-Reyer, attacked the project for its similarity to the city‘s Holocaust memorial.

Berlin‘s Holocaust memorial is on a site near the Brandenburg Gate the size of two football pitches covered with concrete pillars. It is due to open next year.

But officials and people like Ursula Juenemann, 80, who attended Sunday‘s opening ceremony, strongly support the project.

Juenemann‘s son, Burkhard Niering, was shot dead aged 23 while fleeing to West Berlin over the wall in 1974.

"I am here today as the representative of all mothers and fathers whose children died because of the wall," said Juenemann.

The wall project is temporary and due to last until the end of the year, but Hildebrandt is now seeking to have the site established as a permanent memorial.

She plans to buy the 8,000 square metre plot with the aid of sponsors.

The head of Berlin's tourist board, Hanns Peter Nerger, backs Hildebrandt and says the wall is the top priority for visitors to the German capital.

Little of the original wall remains and the few surviving sites include the Eastside Gallery which is about one kilometre long and runs beside the Spree River and has been painted by various artists; Potsdamer Platz, where two remaining concrete slabs are popular with
tourists; and the wall Memorial Museum situated in Berlin's Mitte district.

The Berlin Wall was built on 13 August 1961 leaving West Berlin trapped by a 155 kilometre all. More than 1,000 people died while trying to escape East Germany either over the Berlin Wall, over the German-German border or via the Baltic Sea.


Subject: German news

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