Berlin Wall Now in Pieces Across USA

Sandys, Churchill's granddaughter, got the East German government to give her a section for a sculpture, which she offered to Westminster College.

On Nov. 9, 1990, Reagan came to Fulton to dedicate the sculpture. After the Soviet Union was dissolved, Gorbachev came, too, and spoke from the same lectern as Churchill. Then he stepped through the hole in the wall.

Today, little is left of the wall in Berlin, besides a few long sections. (One is shown in an advertisement for Louis Vuitton luggage that features Gorbachev.) Much of its concrete was broken up and used as road pavement.

Pieces have been made into earrings and bracelets. They sit on countless desktops and knickknack shelves. They are on eBay, where a piece the size of a baseball can be had for $20.

Larger pieces are rarer and more expensive; an 11-by-4-foot panel might cost $10,000 to $30,000, depending on the presence (and quality) of original graffiti.

One 3-ton piece, purchased in 1996 for $17,500, is in a men's room at the Main Street Station Casino in Las Vegas, where it anchors a row of urinals. People have written, hammered and danced on the wall; in Vegas, they can do something else on it.

What the wall means now

Even where its parts have been reassembled, "The wall is not a wall anymore," says Justinian Jampol, an expert on Eastern Europe Cold War artifacts. "It's a blank canvas on which people put their own meaning."

Members of the Westminster College community illustrate his point:

Barney Forsythe, the college president, was a junior Army officer in West Berlin from 1971 to 1974. His brigade drilled on a field bounded by the wall, in sight of East German guards.

"I watched it come down with my wife in our TV room when I was teaching at West Point. We sat there and cried. It felt like the end of the Cold War, and that, frankly, we'd won."

Because of terrorism, he says, "I don't think we're safer now. In the Cold War we had symmetric power relationships, deterrence. The threat (of nuclear war) was significant, but the probability was low."

Alex Belykh, a junior, is a Moscow native whose father worked in the Soviet military. After the fall of the wall and communism, his family's income fluctuated wildly and prices outpaced government salaries.

He doesn't feel he was on the losing side: "I don't feel like I was part of the Cold War. It was mostly ideological, us vs. them. But we're really all in this together. ... The wall does not mean that much any more."

Safety, he says, is relative. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, "there was never any street crime. Now I wouldn't go to certain parts of Moscow alone after 9 p.m."

Philip Mohr, a senior from Maryland Heights, Mo., notes that his class here is the last in which virtually everyone was born before the wall fell. Even so, the wall is almost an abstraction.

"It's a window to the past, but it doesn't have a direct connection to me. A surprising number of students walk past it and don't care." Soon, he says, November 1989 "will seem as distant as World War II."

Kim Kuci, a football coaching assistant, grew up in West Berlin a few blocks from East Berlin. To him, the wall looks like home: "I wonder how many times I walked past this when I was young. I was 15 when it came down — I was right there!" That first evening he couldn't join the party at the border; he had football practice.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...