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kottke.org posts about Berlin Wall

The Mistake that Toppled the Berlin Wall

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2021

I was 16 years old on the day the Berlin Wall fell. I remember coming home from school that day and watching the events unfold on television, completely shocked at how quickly it had all happened. Politics & protests had been pushing the Eastern Bloc countries toward more openness for years, but before watching this video, I’d never heard that the catalyst for that world-changing event was a short mistaken statement at the end of an otherwise boring press conference. From the BBC:

East German leaders had tried to calm mounting protests by loosening the borders, making travel easier for East Germans. They had not intended to open the border up completely.

The changes were meant to be fairly minor — but the way they were delivered had major consequences.

Notes about the new rules were handed to a spokesman, Günter Schabowski — who had no time to read them before his regular press conference. When he read the note aloud for the first time, reporters were stunned.

“Private travel outside the country can now be applied for without prerequisites,” he said. Surprised journalists clamoured for more details.

Shuffling through his notes, Mr Schabowski said that as far as he was aware, it was effective immediately.

In fact it had been planned to start the next day, with details on applying for a visa.

But the news was all over television — and East Germans flocked to the border in huge numbers.

How did the Berlin Wall fall? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.

The Embroidered Memory of the Berlin Wall

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2019

Diane Meyer Berlin

Diane Meyer Berlin

For her series called Berlin, artist Diane Meyer embroiders the Berlin Wall back into modern-day scenes of the once-divided German city. Meyer hand-sews the thread right onto the photographs.

In many images, the embroidered sections represent the exact scale and location of the former Wall offering a pixelated view of what lies behind. In this way, the embroidery appears as a translucent trace in the landscape of something that no longer exists but is a weight on history and memory.

(via colossal)

The Berlin Wall of Light

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2019

Berlin Wall Lights

This photo of Berlin, Germany at night was taken in 2012 from the International Space Station. Almost 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, you can still see the division from space because of the colors of the different street lights used in the East and West.

Daniela Augenstine, of the city’s street furniture department, says: “In the eastern part there are sodium-vapour lamps with a yellower colour. And in the western parts there are fluorescent lamps — mercury arc lamps and gas lamps — which all produce a whiter colour.” The western Federal Republic of Germany long favoured non-sodium lamps on the grounds of cost, maintenance and carbon emissions, she says.

A night photo of Berlin from 2016 confirms that street light replacement is happening in the city, albeit slowly.

See also a photo of NYC from 2015 taken from the ISS, which shows the replacement of the city’s sodium vapor street lights with blue-glowing LEDs.

The new LEDs may be environmentally sensitive, but they are also optically harsh.

“The old lights made everybody look bad,” said Christopher Stoddard, an architect, who lives at the corner of Fuller Place. “But these are so cold and blue, it’s like ‘Night of the Living Dead’ out there.”

“We’re all for saving energy,” his wife, Aida Stoddard, also an architect, said, “but the city can do so much better.”

A few blocks away, Rose Gallitelli taped up black garbage bags on her bedroom windows so that she could sleep. “They’re the heavy-duty kind,” she said.

The Berlin Wall, 25 years after the fall

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2014

In Focus has a photo retrospective of the Berlin Wall, 25 years after it fell. This is one of the most iconic photos, depicting East German border guard Conrad Schumann leaping over the Wall during the early days of construction, when it was only barbed wire.

Berlin Wall Jumper

Schumann made a clean getaway, settled in Bavaria, and lived to see the fall of the Wall in 1989. But Schumann struggled with the separation from his family, birthplace, and old life and, suffering from depression, died of suicide in 1998. Walls may fall, but that’s not the same as never having built them in the first place.

Temporarily recreating the Berlin Wall

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2009

Berliners! Artist Martin Butler is trying to find 33,000 people to recreate the Berlin Wall for the 20th anniversary of the Wall’s fall.

The idea is to form on the 9th of november 2009 — the night the Wall fell 20 years ago — a line of people that will recreate the Berlin Wall with their physical presence, marking the path where the wall once stood. Thousands of people will form a human chain that will make its way on the 9th of november around 8.15pm. This action will last for approximately 15 minutes.

If you want to be a part of the piece, sign up on the web site. (thx, søren)

Update: A U2 concert at the Brandenburg Gate has run into some trouble after — and I swear I am not making this up — a huge wall has been constructed to keep non-ticket holders out of the concert. (thx, john)