Berlin A Wall’s Piece

27/11/2012 17:35

Before the November 9, 1989, the day that the border between the Federal Republic and the Democratic Republic opened, no one would have ever believed that the Berlin Wall would be offered for sale. Twenty five years after the disappearance of nearly ninety seven miles of concrete barrier that split the current German capital for nearly three decades hardly anything remains to offer.

The wall was almost completely dismantled, except for some sections near the Brandenburg Gate, in the Friedrischstrasse former border and in the now called  East Side Gallery near the Ostbahnhof train station. Were retained to preserve the memory and there are some of the graffiti more representative of the time: the Khrushchev and Honecker kiss or the Trabant going through the wall. Around the perimeter is possible to follow the double row of cobblestones marking its former location.

Wall fragments donated by the city of Berlin are located throughout the world, from the European Parliament building in Brussels, the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, at the Vatican, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima or Berlin Park in Chamartín, Madrid. Even a year after the dismantling of the wall, eighty-one blocks twelve feet long and four feet wide were auctioned in Monte Carlo. Besides these large parts, countless small pieces still remain for sale today. Ads like these: Berlin Wall for Sale, Buy pieces of the Berlin Wall, Authentic Piece of the Berlin Wall-Certificate of Authenticity, Berlin Wall in pieces across the USA ... are easily found on the Internet. Twenty five years later the authenticity of a small piece of cement with paint chips may be questionable.

However, during the first months after the fall of the wall, it became an unexpected income source for some East Berliners. The fate of the concrete mass was already sensed on Kurfüsterdamm  downtown sidewalks where makeshift stalls exhibited pieces of all colours and sizes. But what could be found in the Ku-Damm was only a small sample of the almost surreal scene created in Potsdammer Platz or at Eberstrasse. The real market of the wall was installed near the source of the raw material: the wall itself.

Sunday was the heyday. On their day off, some eastern citizens earned the nickname Mauerspechten, wall carpenters. They moved to the west with the essential tools for chop and extract the pieces they saw enough to sell along the day and improvised their trade on the hood of their own Trabi. Then for 50 pfennigs, twenty-five euro cents, were possible to acquire a pebble   no bigger than two inches, the largest being sold to ten Deutch mark, five euros. Between both prices was an unexpected range of offerings and ways of presenting a piece of painted concrete. From Brandenburg Gate to the Reichstag, the wall hosted dozens of stalls that put up for sale in the wall portions, often accompanied by an authenticity  certificate warranted by collector himself. Assorted jewellery with its corresponding graffiti fragment, stones accompanied by a commemorative postcard from Nov. 9. Even being not enough trustfully was possible to pick up by oneself a piece of the historical souvenir hiring for less than a Deutch mark all the necessary stuff: a hammer, a scarp, and even gloves. There were place where the wall surface was too much damaged and only kept graffiti on the top. Another option was to rent a ladder to easy the work on the upper side of the wall and not to grab a mere colourless piece of cement. Neither was surprising that areas devoid of murals became after a colouring spray session in new stuff to be sold as souvenir.

Although then was virtually no doubt about its authenticity, obviously it was easier to get a bit of history in situ than elsewhere. Today the remaining standing  sections of wall are protected as a monument and have stopped the souvenirs proliferation. These have become a curiosity, and even small pieces sold as paperweights may arise up to fifty euros. Sales are over.

© J.L.Nicolas


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