Friday, November 15, 2013

Berlin: A Walk Along the Berlin Wall

Actual date of this event: 30 October - November 4

As Luke and I walked along the double brick line that represents the Berlin Wall, we looked for historical markers. I had read about a few different spots online, and many times, we learn something new at random sites like these.
Less than a year after the wall was built, an East Berliner, Peter Fecter, tried to escape to the west but was shot and bled to death before anyone helped him. The American men could not help because he was still in the east, and the Soviets did not help because they were pretty much terrified of the Americans. The civilians were very displeased with the way both sides handled the situation and acted out a bit. A memorial for Peter Fecter can be found a couple of hundred yards away from Checkpoint Charlie.

{From 1961 to 1990 ran along this road the Berlin Wall. This was on 17 August 1962, the young construction worker Peter Fechter shot ...}
{... he just wanted freedom.}
Checkpoint Charlie is one of the major tourist attractions in Berlin. It is famous for its crossing point between East Berlin and the American sector of West Berlin. After the wall was built in 1961, a tank stand-off occurred between the Americans and the Soviets due to a dispute about checking travel documents. Both groups agreed to peacefully back away six days later. After the fall of the wall, the checkpoint was removed, and original signs and buildings can now be found in museums.

Just a few feet away is the Checkpoint Charlie Museum which we chose not to do for a few different reasons. Fortunately, a free open air exhibit is displayed at the crossroads at the checkpoint with plenty of information.

Checkpoint Charlie does not have any portions of the wall still standing in their exact location, but one corner of the crossroads has a few pieces of the wall on display.

Moving along the wall, we visited the Topography of Terror - a free indoor and outdoor exhibit that includes a large still standing portion of the Berlin Wall. The museum is located on the grounds of the former headquarters of the Gestapo and SS. The buildings are brand new though as the headquarters was primarily bombed in 1945.

We began the museum by walking along the wall (this was our second day exploring, and at this time, we had yet to see any other parts of the wall).

Then, we made our way inside where we were given plenty of information about the Second World War, Hitler and the Nazi Regime. We did quite a bit of reading, and we really only read the major points. A few small things surprised me, such as a few of the SS leaders only received a few years in prison even though they were in charge of a whole concentration camp. That baffles me! A few maps of Europe that showed concentration camps and the major cities that deported people to Auschwitz really interested me as well. I am still amazed at how much I have learned about WWII since moving to the UK.

{some of the SS leaders who received very little consequences for their actions}
After the Topography of Terror, the next historical marker was a guard tower that still stands. It is tucked away on a small street, that we actually missed and walked right by. I was expecting a much taller tower - it really wasn't too big. We saw a sign that gave us the impression that going up the tower was possible, but there was a man at the bottom talking to some people, so we just took a look and then kept moving.
Potdamer Platz is one of the major squares in Berlin as it is the home of many shiny new skyscrapers. The area was completely bombed during the war, stayed empty throughout the days of the Berlin Wall, and then began developing in 1993 to what it looks like today. In this area, we found a line of old wall sections on display with a soldier (fake soldier?) who will stamp your passport... for money.
{All of the little dots on the left piece is gum. What is wrong with people!?!}
Next, one of my favorite places along the line of the Berlin Wall: The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe aka The Holocaust Memorial. The memorial stands on 4.7 acres, has 2,711 stelae of various heights, and has strict rules. Apparently, the memorial is covered with an anti-graffiti substance that was created by the same company that created the extermination gas used in concentration camps. Yikes! Anyway, the memorial is extremely unique! While walking around, I saw a man mildly scold a group of kids who were running around, yelling, and then sitting on the slabs... then I came across the sign with the "rules". Appropriate behavior should be a given here (no sign needed), but I am glad that the man said something.

Next to the memorial is the United States Embassy, which is right next to Pariser Platz and Brandenburg Gate, which I talked a bit about in this post.
Last on our list was the Reichstag - the parliament building. The building has been used as a meeting place for parliament since the 1960's - prior events made it unusable for many years. In 1933, a fire badly damaged the building, which just so happened to aid in the formation of the Nazi Party. Coincidence? The building was used for very little during the 12 years after the fire, and then eventually became a ruin in West Berlin. Rather than tearing it down, it was decided to restore the building with a brand new dome which had been demolished during the war. The dome is the most magnificent part! We visited the dome, but I will save that for another day - way too many pictures!

There are a few other areas along the Berlin Wall line that we did not get a chance to visit. It just means that we will have to take a trip back to Berlin. Would you like to join us? I promise we wont make you walk a million miles a day :-)

Other posts on Berlin: Intro, Post 2Wall MemorialEast Side GalleryPost 5Ritter Sport ChocolatePost 7Post 8Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Berlin was heavily bombed during World War II. Some bombs never exploded and some of those bombs are still in the ground today.

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