Lost and found: The Berlin Wall's escape

Filed 5/2/2018 | Updated 12/2/2018
The Berlin Wall’s been rearing its ugly head again, muscling its way into the news. Today is what the Germans call Zirkeltag, marking 10,316 days since it was beaten down on Nov. 9, 1989, exactly 10,316 days after it was erected to beat others back on Aug. 13, 1961. It’s the closing of a 10,316-day circle.
For younger Berliners who grew up with the Berlin Wall and just assumed it had been there forever, today is a reminder that everything is temporary, no matter how strong or overpowering it seems.
There was another hullabaloo last week or the week before when a local historian, Christian Bormann, announced a “small sensation” of finding 80 meters of original Berlin Wall, apparently “lost” in the commotion of Mauerfall and swallowed up by a bunch of trees to keep its secrets secret from prying eyes until he chanced upon it during his wanderings – back in 1999.
Bormann, who runs the very informative Pankower Chronik blog, was evidently still just as excited by his find almost 20 years later, and the media followed suit banging drums and performing hula-hoops over this lost treasure, a “sensational discovery.”
Even HBO came to film the “Indiana Jones of Pankow” as Bormann is now known.
Lads, just follow the Mauerweg and you’ll find bits of Berlin Wall, wall-associated paraphernalia and former watchtowers all over the place. Get up off your arses, open your eyes, go for a walk and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.
I brought the young fella to see Bormann’s discovery and he told me he’d seen it already. Anyone taking a shortcut to S-Bahnhof Schönholz would have walked past it, as would anyone who came from the station to walk toward Schönholzer Heide, where more remnants of the past can be found.
But credit to Bormann for figuring out what the hell it was – if it is what he says it is. He reckons that it was the first part of the Berlin Wall constructed in 1961 using bits of bombed houses on Schützenstraße.
“The destroyed parts of the walls were rebuilt with white stones and gaps were closed. The houses’ cellars were blown up and filled with rubble,” Bormann writes on his blog, saying an area was cleared to the east to “allow a free shooting area.”
Of course, the wall was fortified over the following years to become the Berlin Wall we all picture when we think of the death strip that snaked all the way around West Berlin.
In Schönholz, the Berlin Wall was moved further east and the wall section that Bormann identified lost its importance as heavier fortifications were built. It eventually ended up in West Berlin due to a land swap, hence it was overlooked in the years after Mauerfall and nobody really cared about it.
There was still some confusion after Bormann announced his find over whether it really is part of the original Berlin Wall or just some imposter that happens to be in the vicinity. Berlin cannot keep up with its past.
Christina Czymay of the Landesdenkmalamt Berlin said it wasn’t part of the Anti-fascist Protection Wall (as the East German authorities called the Berlin Wall), but a “wall near the border,” most likely for commercial and railway facilities on the western side.
But Bormann stuck to his guns in true Indiana Jones fashion, insisting it is the last surviving section of 1961 Berlin Wall and he appears to have gotten his way – on Monday the culture ministry announced it was to get protected status.
So now that it’s protected as the East Side Gallery was, it’s only a matter of time before it’s knocked down to make way for luxury apartments. If you want to go see it, you’d better go quick.

What
The last surviving piece of the original Berlin Wall, constructed using existing walls and structures and anything the East German authorities could find at the time to seal the border. The Berlin Wall began life in Aug. 13, 1961 as soldiers with guns and barbed wire. As of now, it has been down longer than it was up.

Where
Corner of Buddestraße/Schützenstraße, 13158 Berlin.

How to get there
Hop on your bike and cycle. Or if you’re one of those lazy people get the S-Bahn to S-Bhf Schönholz. It’s literally around the corner. Here it is on a map.

Getting in
There’s no getting in because it’s out in the open among trees. Just walk right up to it.

When to go
Go during the day if you want to see it. It’s not too exciting and would be even less exciting at night.

Difficulty rating
1/10. There’s no difficulty at all apart from the difficulty of getting here.

Who to bring
Bring a historian to regale you with stories of the Berlin Wall, preferably the happy stories of people who managed somehow to make it to the other side. Too many didn’t.

What to bring
Bring some food for a picnic here or in the nearby Schönholzer Heide, which is a fine park with more exciting discoveries to be made.

Dangers
Don’t climb up on the wall because it’s not very stable and the bricks are liable to give way. If you fell it wouldn’t be pleasant. Otherwise there are no major dangers. 


UPDATE: Monday, February 12, 2018 – There’s now a wall around the Wall, albeit just a wall of fences. Still, the Berlin Wall itself had humble beginnings, and we all know where they led. When will people learn? WALLS ARE NOT THE ANSWER!
Visitors will be pleased to know that the fence is easily circumnavigated. You can lift up a suitable section (taking care to put it back how you found it) and stroll in. Thankfully the city hasn’t deemed this wall important enough that it’s manned by soldiers with a shoot-to-kill policy, yet. But just wait till the investors with friends in high places roll up.
Ruins 5722050518844734444

2 comments

Is there heightened security, or is it still some lil fence? Original wall seems really interesting to see, so Im curious on if it's still (legal) to visit and if it's easy to get around the fence.

I went there a few days ago. There's a fence around it, but you can crawl under it very easily. Besides of that I didn't have any difficulties checking it out!

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