Berlin A Wall’s Piece

27/11/2012 17:35

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

The wall was almost completely dismantled, except for some sections near Brandenburg Gate, in the Friedrischstrasse former border and in the now called East Side Gallery near the Ostbahnhof train station. These were retained to preserve the memory and there are some of the more representative graffiti of the time: Khrushchev and Honecker’s 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 find 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 one year after the wall dismantling, eighty-one blocks, twelve feet long and four feet wide, were auctioned in Monte Carlo. Besides these large stretches, countless small pieces 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 in Internet. Thirty years later, the authenticity of a small piece of concrete with a thin layer of painting 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 many stalls used to display pieces of any colour and size. However, what could be found in the Ku-Damm was just the top of the iceberg. An almost surreal scene was created in Potsdammer Platz or at Eberstrasse. The real market of the wall was installed near the source of the raw material: the very wall.

Sunday was the heyday. On their day off, some eastern citizens earned the nickname Mauerspechten, the wall carpenters. They moved to the west with the essential tools to cut and extract pieces they thought enough to sell along the day and improvised their stalls on the hood of their Trabis. For just 50 pfennigs, twenty-five euro cents, were possible to acquire a small stone no bigger than two inches; largest ones could be sold up to ten Deutch Mark, five euros. Between both rates, there was a wide 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 portions, often accompanied by an authenticity certificate warranted by the collector himself. Assorted jewellery with its corresponding graffiti fragment, stones accompanied by a commemorative postcard from November 9. If the buyer was not enough confident it 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 places where the wall surface was too much damaged and only kept graffiti on the top, then another option was to rent a ladder to make easy the work on the upper side of the wall and not to grab a mere colourless piece of concrete. It was neither surprising that some surfaces devoid of murals became, after a colouring spray session, new stuff to be sold as a souvenir.

Although then it 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 wall sections are protected as a monument and souvenirs proliferation has stopped. Now, these 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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