This is Berlin Calling – Makers Team Investigates Iconic Structures
Following the success of the awards Makers team took some time to visit some of the iconic land marks of Berlin including the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, the Deutche Telecom TV tower and the Brandenburg Gate.
Most people will have heard of the Berlin Wall, today much of it has disappeared since its demise in November 1989, after being officially demolished in June 1990. Over time souvenir hunters known locally as “Mauerspechte” (wall wood peckers) have left little except for the official sites dotted around the City!. This site now protected with all the border controls removed since October 1990 signifying Germany’s reunification.
The installation of the wall was actually a request from the East Germany Government to the Soviet Union to prevent the continuing brain drain from East to West Germany. Between 1949 – 1961, 2,000,000 East Germans had fled to the west, many of the these being the most educated in the country, fearing the worst the first request came in 1953 but was not granted by Nikita Khrushchev until 1961 after defections were reaching 1000 per day.
Seen as a symbol of the Iron Curtain the wall was said to prevent the fascists entering East Germany, the real reason was to prevent defectors seen as traitors by the East Germans. Berlin was a conquered city divided in 4, and controlled by sectors via the French, British, Americans and Soviets. Berlin sat in the Soviet controlled East Germany and so any provisions to the allied forces had to cross East Germany territory.
The construction of the wall in 1961 was a way of separating the zones controlled by allied forces from those controlled by the Soviet Union. The wall originally constructed of Razor Wire went through a series of upgrades, in 1965 became a block and brick wall to be replaced with Grenzmauer 75 which we witness today which started construction in 1975 and took 5 years to complete.
Constructed of reinforced concrete, the wall consisted of 45,000 separate segments to cover the 155km. Each segment a reinforced concrete cantilevered unit stood 3.6m high and 1.2m wide. The top covered in a smooth concrete pope ensured scaling this structure would be perilous!
The wall itself was a contribution of 2 walls separated by a 160 yard wide death strip containing razor wire, 302 observations towers, 259 dog runs, anti-vehicle trenches and strips of raked sand to indicate crossing attempts together with a full time garrison of 11,000 soldiers!
The concrete wall a retaining structure was covered over the years in graffiti on the western side by plain on the East. There were 9 crossing points across the wall in Berlin the most famous “Check Point Charlie” controlled by the American occupying forces which permitted foreign and West Germans to enter East Germany with the correct permits, the last watch tower being demolished in 2000.
During its 28 year existence 136 people died trying to escape over the wall to the west. As shoot to kill policy was introduced and escapees seen as traitors to the East. Many ingenious methods were used to escape and conquer the wall but as we as success there were many failures.
Today Berlin is a construction site with much investment but look closely and you can still find the remnants of Soviet influence. Most of the wall today is depicted by a sunken channel in the paving slabs, open still grilles and plaques, it is difficult to comprehend the sheer scale of the wall or the emotional impact it had on the city and its people. Its removal has re-united a nation and created the strongest powerhouse in Europe in the Germany Democrative Republic.
Berlin today is a mixture of cultures and buildings form across the ages but what is dramatic is the clear distinction in construction styles between East and West. No man’s land a strip of 160 yards separates the two styles more sincerely in Potsdemmer Platz. The contrast is quite telling with uniform buildings on the left and the abandonment of symmetry on the right!
This is more evident from the views experience at the Deutche telecom tower at Alexander Platz. The highest tower in Europe at 368m commends a 3600 see view of Berlin and all before her. Built in 1968 by the East Germans this tower constructed of concrete and steel was poured in sections on the ground then craned into place a truly remarkable construction. To this day the tower invites visitors to examine the Berlin skyline from 203 and its viewing gallery restraint at 207 metres.
Brandenburg Gate formed part of a wall in the early 1700’s but has since been used as propaganda platform for both American presidents Kennedy and latterly Reagan.
The Gate a symbol of Germany reunification was reconstructed by the Allies and now lies as the entrance to most of the embassies of the world.
Berlin a truly fabulous city, a city now the heartbeat of the German nation will always provide history, counterpoint and above all reflection.
If you ever get the chance, visit it, it will astound you!
The Makers Team.