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Keep the Berlin Wall Standing!

Wednesday 25th November 2015

Now before you do a double take, nobody is suggesting that the decades-gone dividing wall between East and West Germany that ran straight through the heart of Berlin should be re-established. The Fall of the Wall was one of the most iconic moments in the final moments of the Cold War, and the first photographs of that day are equally iconic images that live forever in the minds of everyone who knew just how much it meant.

At this point, the majority of the wall is long-gone, but sections of it have been preserved as a monument to the mistakes of past years and past regimes. While it was standing, it was such a hated symbol of oppression and division that it naturally aroused both artistic and intellectual rage - in other words, it was completely covered in graffiti. Ranging from the purely angry to the politically motivated to the aesthetic attempts to create beauty from the tragically oppressive. Over the years since the destruction of the wall, tourists and visitors to the historic site have taken to adding their own marks to what little of the wall remains.

In fact, the site has become so popular that it draws an estimated 3 million tourists every year, and is probably the most popular site for smartphone selfies in the entire city. That much traffic comes with its own inherent risks - primarily vandalism, which is unsurprising in an unprotected open air environment - especially for something so completely covered in graffiti. The more troubling and damaging aspect is that some visitors seem to feel that they are entitled to take a small piece of the wall home with them, and that obviously creates some problems for those who are tasked with maintaining the East Side Gallery, as it is known.

Sascha Langenbach, spokesman for Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, the district of Berlin that contains the gallery section, has grown frustrated with the audacity of tourists. “People come and pick and scratch at it with everything from keys to penknives, hoping to take a piece home with them. Last week we caught a Japanese girl in the act of spraying a complete panel in silver and red paint. She had brought a whole crate of spray paint with her."

Suddenly, the proposed idea of fencing in one of the most famous walls in Europe no longer seems completely insane. Hopefully, efforts to preserve what remains of the wall will succeed, leaving a cautionary tale for tomorrow's generations.

Posted on November 25th 2015 on 05:05am

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