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Mapping: Where Is the Berlin Wall Now?

ISSUE:  Winter 2015

For nearly thirty years, the Berlin Wall—a ninety-six-mile partition that separated West Berlin from Soviet-controlled Germany surrounding it—was the Cold War’s geopolitical line in the sand. But by 1989, the Soviet Union was weakening, and more than a million East Germans seized this momentum to protest against the state. In response, members of the German politburo held a televised news conference on the evening of November 9, during which one official mistakenly announced that East Germans would be allowed free passage into West Germany—failing to mention that exit visas were required. Within hours, thousands of people swarmed the wall’s checkpoints, overwhelming unprepared guards, who eventually opened the gates. In the days that followed, Germans set upon the wall with hammers and chisels, then saws and cranes, until much of it was demolished and hauled away in pieces. In the decades since, many sections of the wall have been acquired by museums and other institutions, while an untold number of smaller pieces have been bought and sold and traded. Here we explore some of the wall’s legacy, as both a political phenomenon and Cold War memorabilia.


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