13 April 2004
BERLIN – The last bits of the Berlin Wall are going to be walled up themselves – inside a government ministry building to be built on the site where the wall fragments still stand.
There only about 25 metres of the reinforced concrete wall panels left. Some of the panels are pock-marked and worse the wear for the passage of time – and the passage of hundreds of thousands of tourists each year who caress the lurid graffiti and try to chisel bits off to take home with them.
Erich Stanke stands guard to prevent that. He owns these stony fragments of history, having bought 120 bits and pieces of varying size from the East German regime as workmen set about disassembling the Wall just before unification in 1990.
And Stanke is not at all pleased with plans to erect the new German Ministry of the Environment on the site south of Leipziger Platz where his Berlin Wall panels stand.
“The public is going to be denied access to them,” he says.
Not so, insists architect Juergen Pleuser of the Berlin design firm Geier, Maass and Pleuser.
“The wall fragments will be re-settled in the foyer of the new building, freely accessible to everyone,” Pleuser says.
But that is only after the building is finished – in a couple of years’ time.
In the meantime, they will be removed during construction at the site in the Stresemann Strasse, according to Environment Ministry spokesman Michael Schroeren.
Site preparation work is to get underway later this month with construction to last until 2006, Schroeren says.
When the new building opens two years from now, the Berlin Wall fragments will be incorporated into the structure of the foyer, he adds.
“But what about my Wall?” Stanke asks. “I am still not convinced that it will really be accessible to the public. I mean, it’s a government building. You’ll have to get through security to get inside,” he notes.
“At any rate, it won’t be the same as seeing the panels out here in the open where they were meant to be.”
The Berlin Wall was erected on the night of 13 August 1961. It was a weekend and most Berliners slept while the East German government began sealing off the border.
In the early morning of that Sunday most of the first work was done: the border to West Berlin was closed. The East German troups had begun to tear up streets and to install barbed wire entanglement and fences through Berlin.
Subject: German news