|Last Remaining Tower of the Berlin Wall|
I last crossed the Berlin Wall at Checkpoint Charlie in 1969 on a family vacation to Europe. We flew from Hamburg to Berlin on a short 35 minutes Trans World Airlines (TWA) flight. Twenty four years after the end of WWII, West Berlin had been cleared of rubble. The streets were clean but many blocks empty. Cranes dominated that half of the city as new construction began to carry out instructions from international architects brought in to fill a world lost to bombing.
The Berlin Wall was eight years old and West Berlin a political hotspot, where the Cold War played out daily. President Nixon had visited West Berlin in March of that year to huge crowds. Miles Davis would play in November with equal numbers of fans. Americans were loved for keeping supply lines open to the western half of the city.
I remember clearly the excitement of crossing into East Berlin. We sat on the top level of a double decker tour bus, providing a nice view of the guards. East German guards closely checked our passports pictures and ran mirrors under the bus. Despite instructions not to photograph anything, my oldest brother slipped out our movie camera, put it on his lap and filmed the gate and wall as we crossed the border.
Compared to West Berlin, its eastern counterpart was shut-down. Rows of apartment buildings had been built but many old bombed out apartments stood silent, awaiting their turn to be torn down. As the tallest building in Germany, the TV tower of Berliner Fernsehturm had just been finished in 1969 but we weren’t allowed to ascend. Few people or cars were out. Our guide followed a script as we rode through the quiet streets. It just felt sad.
|Tourists at Checkpoint Charlie|
|Outer and Inner Wall|
of Chapel of Reconciliation
|East Side Gallery|
|East German Trabant Crashing though Wall|
East Side Gallery
|Berlin Wall near Topography of Terror|
Walls never work or at least they don’t work for long. From the Great Wall to the Security Wall in Israel to the talk of a border wall with Mexico, the idea always seems simple. But it is really a break down in imagination. A government can’t find a better solution than a concrete wall, which only gives resolve to those being penned in or kept out. They do eventually fall. Berlin had the foresight to preserve portions of this inconvenient and unintentional monument, reminding us all the human spirit will eventually prevail.