Best of Berlin 2020

A Forgotten Berlin Wall

Think of Berlin and you think of walls, and not just any wall, but the Berlin Wall, symbol of a divided world after WWII. Not many visitors however discover THIS peculiar wall, on the NE side of the parliament building – the famous Reichstag.  

Few buildings have a symbolism like the Reichstag.  Burned twice, once after Hitler was made chancellor in 1933 giving him a chance to declare a state of emergency and thus dictatorial powers, and again in 1945 as the Red Army pounded the facade and raised their flag the day Hitler died, April 30th1945.  

It is just below the site where the picture of the hammer and sickle flying over defeated Berlin was taken in 1945 , a photo that that around the world, that a chunk of red brick wall and 2 plaques can be found.  

The piece of wall comes from Poland, from the Baltic city of Gdansk (or Danzig as it was long called).   It was here in the ship yards that the Solidarity union movement began that would begin regime change in Poland in the late 1980’s, causing a ‘domino effect’ that eventually led to the collapse of communism throughout central and eastern Europe and ultimately the end of the Cold War.

The second plaque is unique.  There can’t be many world capitals that have a memorial on their parliament commemorating a picnic, but that’s what it speaks to.  After Solidarity’s long, hard but ultimately successful struggle for freedom, the wind of change swept into other communist countries and in the summer of 1989, just before a mass demonstration movement brought down the Berlin Wall in November of that year, on the 19th of  August Hungary opened her border with free Austria for 3 hours.

For East Germans travelling to Hungary was possible, but the unstable climate at the time had made the regime acutely aware of a danger of its citizens fleeing the country. How could east Germans get close to a western border without raising the alarm?  

In Hungary in August of 1989 the communist world’s ‘Pan European Picnic for peace’ took place in Sopron very near the Austrian border, the perfect excuse for East Germans to travel there to take attend.   During the picnic, they got up, and ran for the border, thousands seeking asylum in the west German embassy garden in Vienna, later being resettled in the west.  This was the final straw for East Germans, the peoples demonstration dam burst and Germany was on a path to unification by October 1990.

These two events played a major role in unifying Germany and bringing democracy to former Soviet puppet states, so it’s fitting these memorials are a part Berlin’s Reichstag, where today decisions are made that effect the German and EU 21stCentury’s future. Come to virtualberlintours.com and we’ll show this to you!