Berlin′s mysterious war memorial faces uncertain future | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 08.02.2010
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Berlin's mysterious war memorial faces uncertain future

An anonymous memorial in the once divided German capital pays tribute to those who have died in war. Its origins are a mystery and, as Berlin gets further away from its Cold War past, its future is now uncertain, too.

A boy touches the concrete plates of the east side of the former Berlin Wall at the wall memorial at Bernauer Street in Berlin

There is also an official Berlin Wall memorial at Bernauer Street

In the area of Berlin known as "no-man's land" - between what used to be East and West Berlin - lies a mystery that, two decades after the fall of the Wall, has yet to be solved.

On Bernauer Street, among the overgrowth and rubble-strewn piles, a dozen low-relief carved stones lie in a circle around a tree. They bear the silhouettes of AK-47s, bombs, a soldier with gun, and a text in English about the horrors of war.

"No one knows what this is, even people who work with monuments in Berlin all day long," Ralf Dehne from Berlin's Administration for Urban Development told Deutsche Welle. "This was probably done spontaneously by an artist without letting the city authorities know, but it really should be under city protection."

War memorial on Bernauer Street in Berlin

The memorial is estimated to be two decades old

Judging by the age of the mid-size tree which stands in the middle of the ring of stones, Dehne hypothesized that the stone memorial was probably created shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Some of the images on the stones are unidentifiable. Almost all of them bear a triangular symbol in the corner. "Remember mothers, fathers, daughters, soldiers, sons that have died and still will in our past and present wars," reads the stone facing north.

Struggle for the neighborhood

Bernauer Street has been undergoing change recently. The plots that run between the parallel border walls, in the no-man's land, have been bought up quickly over the last few years and developed into condominiums and apartment buildings - but not without resistance.

Local residents' protests against the development of the neighborhood intensified in November when a real estate company proposed building across from the beloved Mauerpark - a favorite spot for Sunday flea markets, open-air karaoke and kite-flying.

An apartment building - an 8-story structure with a peaked roof, according to the computer-rendered plan on the billboard in front of the lot - is scheduled to be built on the lot where the memorial is now.

War memorial on Bernauer Street in Berlin

Dozens lost their lives at the Berlin Wall during the Cold War

The new building would give that portion of no-man's land an address for the first time in more than 20 years: Bernauer Street 20. The company in charge of the project, Spree Architeckten, did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. It's unclear whether there are any plans to preserve the memorial.

The remaining open lots along the former Wall is an oft-traveled path for dog-owners living in the residential neighborhood on the once international border.

"This is the only place left to walk my dog. I walk here everyday and never noticed it," said one dog-walker of the forgotten memorial.

The passerby, a middle-aged photojournalist, asked not to me named. He said he wouldn't expect the memorial to last very long if it isn't protected by the state as a historical landmark.

Gesturing toward Mauerpark, he said, "Everything is being destroyed here."

Author: Candice Novak

Editor: Kate Bowen

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