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Amateur Historian Reveals Forgotten Stretch of the Berlin Wall

The dilapidated structure appears to be an early iteration of the infamous Cold War partition

smithsonian.com

Most of the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989, with the exception of a few stretches of concrete that were kept intact as a memorial to the difficult years of the Cold War.  But as Feargus O’Sullivan of CityLab reports, an amateur historian has alerted authorities to a 262-foot section of the wall that has continued to stand in an isolated suburban area for the past three decades.

Christian Bormann says that he has known about the forgotten relic since 1999, but only recently brought it to public attention because of concern that the dilapidated wall was at risk of collapsing. The section is located in an undeveloped space of land between a cemetery and the tracks of a railway. It seems to have gone unnoticed at the time when the rest of the wall was being torn down.

According to the Local, this surviving stretch of the Berlin Wall is still outfitted with Y-shaped metal joints, through which barbed wire was once threaded to prevent residents of Communist-held East Germany from fleeing into the democratic West. Also still visible are the posts that held electric wires and tripwires, making it nearly impossible to escape.

In the wake of WWII, Germany was divided into four zones; the Soviets held the eastern part of the country, and the United States, France and Great Britain held the western part. Berlin was also split, with the eastern half going to the Soviets and the western half going to the Allies. By August of 1961, East Germany’s Communist government had grown exasperated by the stream of refugees pouring into the West. On the morning of August 13, residents of Berlin woke up to find out that their city divided by a wall of barbed wire, which was reinforced with concrete a few days later.

Gradually, this hastily erected barrier was replaced by a thick wall of concrete lined with a “Death Strip”: a wide stretch of sand (which would show footprints) guarded judiciously by soldiers, attack dogs and tripwire machine guns. According to Communist officials, the purpose of the wall was to keep “fascists” from getting into East Germany. In reality, it prevented refugees from fleeing.

The newly discovered section appears to belong to an early iteration of the Berlin Wall. It was pieced together from the remains of buildings that were bombed out during WWII. The gaps between the buildings were filled in and their cellars were blown up so people could not tunnel beneath them.

Later, when Communists arrived in the area to reinforce the barrier, they opted to simply build a sturdier one nearby, according to the Local. When the Berlin Wall was destroyed at the end of the Cold War, the original section appears to have been forgotten—and forgotten it's stayed, until now.

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.

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