By HOLDEN VANDERDEER
Students made a replica of the Berlin Wall next to Ball Circle as a part of the University of Mary Washington’s commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the wall’s destruction.
The project is part of many different events being held throughout October to commemorate the historic event. Marcel Rotter, a German professor who grew up in East Germany, orchestrated the project.
“We have big styrofoam panels and wood basses, and it will go up on Ball Circle,” Rotter said. “And the painting is up to the students.”
The wall is comprised of ten sections and 20 panels for any student to decorate with graffiti art.
Construction of the wall took place on Friday, Oct. 17, and students began spray-painting it with decorations, including German phrases like “Liebe für alle,” which translates to “love for all.
To help support this project, Rotter received funding from the German Embassy, while the German Club and the art department coordinated the actual building of the replica wall.
“We had great support in building the wall from the art department,” Rotter said. “Professor Carole Garmon was very instrumental, actually, to get us the know-how and also students to support it.”
The German Democratic Republic began to physically separate East Berlin from West Berlin in 1961, though the historic wall was formally built in 1975. Many people tried to get over the wall, with as many as 5,000 succeeding, but there were casualties of at least 100 people that were killed by gunfire during the course of the walls existence.
The Berlin Wall kept East Germans from fleeing to West Berlin until November 9, 1989 when Gunter Schabowski announced the border would be open for private trips; this led to a mob overtaking the wall. The following days were filled with celebration as people began tearing the Berlin Wall to pieces. Roughly a year later Germany would be reunited as one nation.
“For me, it is more about coming together as a whole country, as a whole culture with no grievances from the past,” senior physics major Eric Raterman said.
Miranda Schnakenberg, a sophomore English major who helped decorate the replica wall, sees the fall of the Berlin Wall as something more than just Germany’s reunification.
“It’s the tearing down of barriers,” Schnakenberg said. “In the end, it’s a reminder that we are all the same, that differences are built.”
By decorating the replica wall with graffiti or street art, UMW students are re-enacting similar actions done to the Berlin Wall. Senior studio arts major Elizabeth Camilletti explained that street art is a universally recognized form of artistic expression.
“Acts of graffiti were a defiance from the people,” Camilletti said.
Throughout the following weeks, the German club will staff a table to hand out spray paint to any student who want to decorate the wall.
There are also several other events also going on as part of the 25th anniversary commemoration. There are three films, showcasing subjects such as the life of East Germans in Berlin, the protests in Leipzig and the story of a man who was jailed in East Germany, released after the reunification and had to adjust to a new way of life.
The German game night will be back after its popularity in 2011, along with a panel discussion about the impact of walls on people’s lives around the world that will present the experiences of Koreans, Palestinians and Mexicans. Martin Jankowski, an author on several books about the protest in Leipzig and the rest of East Germany, will give a reading.
The commemoration will end on Nov. 6, when all students are willing be invited to participate in the tearing down of the replica wall, followed by a German gala.