In 1945 Allied tanks rolled into Berlin and the war in Europe was over. My Uncle was there and did his bit for international relations by liberating a local girl. And another. My cousin was the result of the first liaison but Uncle had moved on, settling in what became the Russian quarter with his new wife.
One day, sixteen years after the war ended, West Berliners woke up to find a wall around their city. Creating an island, not an idyllic desert surrounded by ocean, but a capitalist city surrounded by communism. Uncle was on one side, Cousin on the other. Uncle never crossed the border, never returned to the UK - although he did stay in touch - Nan used to save me the stamps from the letters he wrote. They were great stamps.
As a newly minted teenager in the mid 70s I spent a summer in Berlin. I flew in to Templehof. My first sight of Berlin was coal bunkers. Seemed like miles and miles of coal - in case the East cut off supplies. I stayed with my Cousin and made myself at home. It was the best summer.
For the West (read USA) Berlin was a marketing opportunity, a shop window to be viewed from over the wall. Money was pumped in to make it the most dynamic, exciting, shiny, city in the world, certainly when compared with the greyness of the East. West Berlin shouted from the rooftops: We've got Coke! And cars, watches and dapper suits. Over the wall it was pretty obvious they had nothing.
I stayed in an apartment in an ancient block in Pezzalozzistrasse. My Aunt lived in another apartment in what had undoubtedly once been a very fashionable part of the city. There was a doorman and a bell boy in the lift. The furniture was heavy, black, ornate, overpowering. So was her cooking, which I hated. The ghosts of Cabaret stalked the halls. Delightfully decadent.
There were wayside shrines close to to the wall, memorialising people who had tried to cross over, East to West. And had ended up shot. I met a man who had been a soldier between 1939 and 1945. He had a finger missing and still hated the British.
Thierry Noir, Upfest Bristol, 2015
In 1984 Thierry Noir started the process which brought down the wall. The wall was a potent symbol, a constant presence. Thierry felt it needed taking down a peg or two. It needed demystifying. So he painted on it. Which sounds easy but wasn't. Both sides of the wall were technically in the East and it was an offence to deface the wall. But he carried on - and what happened?
First of all paint fumes travelled over the wall confusing the populace, it was the smell of freedom, the smell of rebellion. They started to crumble. And the paint started doing its work on the wall - tiny particulates worked their way into the stone and concrete starting the process which would lead to the wall literally tumbling down. Cold War is Over (if you want it).
A quarter of a century later the German Department of the University of Bristol has been working with a group of local secondary schools, the arts organisation Routes into Language South West and Upfest to commemorate the Fall of the Wall. This series of murals were created with the theme What I would have painted on the Berlin Wall.
nice work kids
and then all of a sudden it was over
the wall came down
and became the stuff of snow globes
and packaged bits of original Berlin Wall.