Walking Past History

How many times did I walk past without realizing what I was seeing? Twenty at least, maybe more, though these concrete slabs aren’t part of my usual daily walk.

Yesterday my wife asked: “Do you know what those are?” I had to admit I didn’t. 

There probably isn’t a German alive who would have said that. They know their history; they have lived it.

My thought was it was some sort of public art. Which seems strange. The slabs are outside a holiday rental home on the edges of Ballrechten-Dottingen, between the towns of Sulzburg and Staufen. Not a high-traffic area. Not where you would display your art.

If I had known my German history better the graffiti on only one side of the slabs would have been a giveaway. In their original location, no-one would have been allowed close enough to write on the other side. Plus, when these slabs were last in the news I didn’t have access to pictures of the event. There was no internet in 1989.

Back then I was living in Liberia. I got my news by listening to shortwave radio. It was there I heard about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of East and West Germany.

But radio doesn’t have pictures. It isn’t surprising therefore that I didn’t recognize these slabs as being part of the Berlin Wall. that once divided the city between east and west. In 1989 I remember hearing that people took souvenirs. It hadn’t occurred to me the pieces would be that big – I’d envisioned the crowds reducing the Wall to rubble.

I’d certainly never expected to find a portion of the Wall in a field in rural Germany. Turns out it was a birthday present for the owner of the field. I guess that solves the question of what to give to the person who has everything.

In North America the Cold War is only a distant memory, something that never quite seemed real given that it was more a war of ideas than one filled with bloody battles. In Europe though there are more concrete (pun intended) reminders of just how serious the conflict was.

I just never expected to find one a short walk from my house.

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