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Mock Berlin Wall to Be Built and Torn Down at UW

September 5, 2014

The Berlin Wall, perhaps the most iconic symbol of the Cold War, will tumble again, 25 years after it was torn down amid the jubilation of thousands of revelers who celebrated freedom and the reunification of Europe.

A 32-foot-long mock Berlin Wall will be built on the south side of Prexy’s Pasture Friday, Sept. 12, and torn down Thursday, Sept. 18, as part of a series of University of Wyoming events to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. Students and visitors will be able to spray paint graffiti on the wall for a week after it is built, and tear it down with sledgehammers. ROTC students will “guard” the wall just as American soldiers did at Checkpoint Charlie.

The tearing-down event will be at noon Thursday, Sept. 18, with a keynote speech by Thomas Risse, professor at the Free University of Berlin.

Stephanie Anderson, an associate professor in the UW Department of Political Science who visited Germany in December 1989, obtained a grant from the German embassy to sponsor the events. She says she responded to the embassy’s call for proposals with a plan to “spur analytical, contemplative and creative thought throughout the semester.”

“I find some of today’s students think the Cold War ended in the 1960s, and that it wasn’t as serious as people thought at the time,” says Anderson, who teaches international relations and European integration. “It’s very difficult to get through to them the idea that people believed nuclear war could happen at any moment.”

Many students are aware of the wall from the photos and video images of President Ronald Reagan urging Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” Anderson says.Souvenir hunters crack pieces out of the wall Nov. 9, 1989. A 32-foot-long mock Berlin Wall will be built on the south side of Prexy’s Pasture Friday, Sept. 12, and torn down at noon Thursday, Sept. 18, as part of a series of University of Wyoming events to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Bundesregierung / Uwe Rau)

She also hopes the UW events will serve as reminders that walls still exist all over the world today, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem in Israel, the U.S. border with Mexico, in Morocco to guard the western Sahara, Korea’s 38th parallel and other locations.

“Walls provide a false sense of security,” she says. “If there is a testament to human ingenuity, it’s in the wall museum of Berlin that documents all the ways that people escaped the wall -- over, under and through; hot air balloons hidden in suitcases in cars; mini-submarines -- it’s incredible.”

Another lesson Anderson conveys to her students is that all conflicts end and that peace is obtainable. She reminds her students that people who lived through the Cold War thought it would end with nuclear war.

“No one could see an end to the conflict between the Soviet Union and the free world, and yet it ended in a heartbeat between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union -- pretty quick considering how much angst and strife there was during the Cold War.”

Among other “Fall of the Wall” events scheduled at UW:

Wednesday, Oct. 1, 7 p.m. -- Free showing of the comedy film “Good Bye Lenin!” in Room 129 of the Classroom Building, with pizza provided by the Simpson Fund.

Friday, Oct. 10, 5 p.m. -- Berlin Wall exhibition and eyewitness accounts, Laramie County Community College Albany County Campus.

Thursday, Oct. 30, 4 p.m. -- Public talk and reception for researcher Jason Owens, about the 428 Namibian children whose sojourn (1979-1990) in East Germany was cut short when the wall fell, Wyoming Union Family Room.

Sunday, Nov. 9, 1 p.m. -- Violinist John Fadial and pianist Andrew Harley, who were in Germany when the wall came down, will perform a German unity concert in the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts concert hall. They will be joined by cellist Beth Vanderborgh, who will perform and tell stories of German and Soviet composers who created some of the most intensely expressive music ever written.

A complete schedule of events can be found at www.uwyo.edu/pols/fallofthewall/index.html.

Top Photo:
The German Democratic Republic opened its border to West Berlin and to the Federal Republic in November 1989; after 28 years, the wall fell. Residents from both parts of the city on the wall near the Reichstag in discussion with a member of the GDR People’s Police. (Bundesregierung /Klaus Lehnartz)


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Chad Baldwin

Institutional Communications

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Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

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