The Berlin Wall Memorial
The Berlin Wall Memorial runs along both sides of Bernauer Strasse. The outdoor exhibition, which uses the Bernauer Strasse to illustrate the history of the Berlin Wall, is presented on the former border strip, which was situated on the East Berlin side of the border. This area also includes the official monument dedicated to the memory of the divided city and the victims of communist tyranny. This is also where the Window of Remembrance stands. The Chapel of Reconciliation and the excavated foundations of a former apartment building, whose façade formed part of the border wall until the early 1980s, are also in this section.
The Visitor Center and the Documentation Center, which includes the observation tower and a permanent exhibition on the history of Berlin’s division, are located on the opposite side of the street, which had once belonged to West Berlin.
The Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station presents the exhibition “Border and Ghost Stations in Divided Berlin.” It documents how the city’s transport system was affected by the Berlin Wall.
History of the Memorial
The Berlin Wall Memorial was established on Bernauer Strasse for a number of reasons: For one, the many events that occurred here when the Wall still stood had earned the street a degree of notoriety. Moreover, local citizens were able to ensure that a long section of the border wall and several relics from the border fortifications were preserved. One day before reunification, on October 2, 1990, the East Berlin magistrate placed the section of the border that cut across the Sophien Cemetery under monument protection.
By spring 1990, a working group had formed to develop a concept for preserving the section of the Berlin Wall on Bernauer Strasse. Its initiators included Peter Möbius (Museum of German History), Helmut Trotnow (German Historical Museum) and Pastor Manfred Fischer of the Protestant Reconciliation Church. Shortly before the 29th anniversary of the Wall’s construction, the initiators, led by Manfred Fischer, erected a sign at the site on Bernauer Strasse that read: "Attention! Attention! Dear Wall peckers, please don't 'peck' on this piece of the Wall. .... Help us and the victims of this border preserve an authentic and dignified memorial." Manfred Fischer, who is regarded as the memorial’s "spiritus rector," lived right next to the piece of Wall in question and engaged in countless discussions with the Wall peckers. For the first time, in July 1990, he succeeded in preventing construction companies from demolishing the Wall. In 1994, a competition was held for the design of a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Wall and in memory of the city’s division. The memorial was inaugurated on August 13, 1998.
That same year, on the initiative of the Berlin Senate, the “Berlin Wall Association” was founded as a supporting association for a planned documentation center at the site. The center would add to the memorial by offering factual information and engaging in historical and civic educational work. The Documentation Center opened in the parish hall of the Reconciliation Parish the following year, on 9 November 1999, which was the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. In 2000, the Chapel of Reconciliation was ceremoniously dedicated on the former border strip. These three elements offer visitors different ways of learning about the history and consequences of the Berlin Wall: through art, documentation or religion. Visitors can thus decide for themselves how they wish to approach the historical site and reminders of the past.
In 2006 the Berlin Senate adopted the general concept for the commemoration of the Berlin Wall, which called for strengthening and networking the different sites in Berlin that deal with the history of the Wall. As part of this concept, the memorial on Bernauer Strasse was declared the central site of remembrance for the division of Berlin. In the following years, the memorial underwent major expansion that was completed in 2014. A Visitor Center opened on the corner of Bernauer Strasse and Gartenstrasse in 2009. The permanent exhibition “1961 | 1989. The Berlin Wall,” which opened in the Documentation Center in 2014, describes the political and historical situation that led to the Wall’s construction, its fall and the reunification of Germany.