Berlin Wall makes comeback for tourists

Tue Aug 9, 2011 8:40am EDT
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By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Berlin Wall is making a comeback. A half century after it was built and two decades after its demise, a few bits of the Wall that once split Berlin into East and West are being reinstated for posterity to the delight of tourists seeking a glimpse of the city's Cold War history.

Almost all of the 160 km (100 miles) of Berlin Wall that encircled West Berlin in the heart of Communist East Germany was hastily torn down or chiseled away in the euphoria after it was breached in 1989.

There were only a few withered remnants of the wall left by the time the two Germanys reunited less than a year later on October 3, 1990. Only three of the 302 ominous East German guard towers still stood.

"There's a general complaint that the demolition of the Wall was a bit too extensive," said Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit.

"That's understandable from today's point of view and it would have probably been better for tourists if more of it could have been preserved," he told Reuters. "But at that time we were all just so happy to see the Wall gone."

There was indeed a powerful rush to obliterate all traces of the 3.6-meter-high concrete and barbed wire barrier, building of which started on August 13, 1961.

"Mauerspecht" (wall-peckers) armed with hammers and chisels got souvenir chips and bulldozers did the rest, turning it into gravel and developing the prime real estate.

Many of the Wall slabs were sold, raising some 2 million deutsche marks for the government (about $1 million at the time). Some 300 East German border guards and 600 West German soldiers worked together to tear the rest down, converting it into 300,000 tons of concrete mass.   Continued...

<p>Rain clouds gather above the Berlin Wall memorial site in Bernauer Strasse in Berlin, August 9, 2011. REUTERS/Thomas Peter</p>