By Jeremy Covone
Visiting the Berlin wall as an emotional rollercoaster of experience for me. The Berlin wall was only a vague image and I lacked information of it before hand. Growing up and attending school my teachers hardly went into detail on the Berlin wall. I knew practically nothing about it other than that it was a wall and that many people died from it. I know it may sound crazy that my knowledge before hand was only of that but in school it just wasn’t seen as a focal point. It blows my mind that I was able to go all those years without having a clue on how the Berlin wall impacted history. Approaching the memorial, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The whole-time curiosity was definitely flowing through my head. Fortunately, I was privileged to have an intelligent tour guide named Adam. Before actually visiting the site, Adam explained how Germany was divided into the east and the west. East and west what does that mean? I always thought Germany was always one country! However, west Berlin was occupied by was occupied by the British, French, and Americans whereas the west was occupied by the soviets. Also, that the wall was always under construction. I found that to be extremely interesting. At this moment, I realized that not only is this going to be a fascinating experience but also an enormous educational one. After Adam had finished giving us a generalized summary of the Berlin wall we proceeded to the memorial.
Reflecting back on the memorial what stuck in my head the most was the victims of the wall. My excitement suddenly was overpowered with sorrow. I always thought that throughout my life the deaths from the Berlin wall were from human on human contact. However, little did I know that this was not the case. I noticed that the majority of the individuals were male and of young age. As I stood there gazing at the memorial with the pictures of the individuals that lost there lives right in front of me the two that stood out to me the most were the oldest lady to have died and a young boy. Adam went into detail about each including the significance of the old lady which was that she was female and that she was much older than the majority of the victims. Her age and gender was somewhat rare. The old lady’s only family that she had was her sister. Unfortunately, her sister lived on the other side of the wall. The old lady’s residency was situated near the wall and for many people an idea of getting to the other side was to use the window. That was this lady’s idea and unfortunately, she did not make it. Just imagining this image in my head of an individual trying to be reunited with there family and willing to sacrifice whatever it takes is just breathtaking. The young boy was an interesting scenario because he was not even German. His death also portrays the fear of the wall towards the citizens of Berlin. This boy was playing outside with a ball with a couple of friends just like any child would. As they were playing the ball fell into the river which was an off-limits zone. Unfortunately, the boy fell into the river and was unable to swim. As he frantically called for help groups of people watched. These bystanders were not willing to go into the water to save the boy due to the risk of being shot. The boy died and this imagery of a child drowning while people were terrified of saving him for they feared that their own lives would be taken really shows the horrors that came about due to this wall. Hearing those two stories really made my heart sink and those are two stories that I certainly will never forget.
As I walked through the memorial I noticed the graffiti on the wall. I was intrigued to find out that this graffiti was actually authentic. The next thing I seemed to notice was that the lamp posts were originals. Just looking at what was remaining such as a few parts of the wall and the lamp posts really gave me the chills. We preceded to walk towards a remodeled watch tower and the side of the wall that had absolutely no graffiti.
Approaching the watch tower as I observed it I noticed in my mind that it had a sinister look to it. You could tell that this tower was the sight of something deadly. Just looking at its narrow and basic rectangular shape really painted a picture in my mind. While I looked at this tower I recreated in my head what this tower would have looked like back when the wall was in commission. For some odd reason, I could easily picture this tower being lit up at night with the lamp post following it and I came up with this dark image and I can picture the fear in the eyes of its victims. Of course, I’m not saying it was lit up to look nice but lit up to make people afraid. I can almost imagine parents telling kids to stay away from the lights. It was really a remarkable scene regardless that it was a remodel.
As Adam finished giving us more information on the wall and tower we were able to look at the part of the wall through a crack that had no graffiti on it. It was an amazing experience to be able to look through the crack and stumble upon history right in front of your eyes. I was shocked to notice that the wall wasn’t very high and that with the help of three people someone could manage to get over it. However, the fear is what kept people away.
After visiting the memorial, I kept wondering that when the wall was taken down were people still afraid of crossing it? It had been a mindset for so many years to stay on your side. It was also shocking to see how much was left of the wall. Most of it was destroyed from citizens and we have very few pieces remaining. Overall my experiences of the Berlin wall was something that I will remember for the rest of my life. Not only being able to witness it in person but also to be able to learn so much about it that I had never even knew existed. This experience has inspired me to want to research more about the history and about the victims involved. It has opened up a whole new desire for me.