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Chapter 6
How the wall became mere material

"Mauerspecht" ("Wall Woodpecker"), Berlin, November 1989, between Reichstag and Potsdamer Platz
"Mauerspecht" ("Wall Woodpecker"), Berlin, November 1989, between Reichstag and Potsdamer Platz | Photo: Jürgen Lottenburger © wir-waren-so-frei.de

Regular blows resound, from a distance they sound like a festival of uninhibited DIY-ers. But in the weeks following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the hammer - actually the symbol of the workers on the GDR flag - is striking thousands of times against the concrete.

By Regine Hader and Dr. Andreas Ludwig

For years, the Wall has been a real structural barrier for both sides of the city, cutting off tram tracks, limiting possibilities, relationships and routes. At the same time, however, the Wall was also a symbol of the Cold War, of the either/or of affiliation with the political blocs - either the reactionary politics of consumption or the socialist absence of freedom. It symbolised an order that does not tolerate any nuances and confronts the citizens on both sides with their own powerlessness. On these November days they also free themselves physically.

Erste „Mauerspechte“, Berlin, 10. November 1989, Brandenburger Tor Erste „Mauerspechte“, Berlin, 10. November 1989, Brandenburger Tor | Foto: Monika Waack © wir-waren-so-frei.de With hammer and chisel they not only put an end to the physical unavoidability of the Wall, but also destroy the symbolic level of concrete - depriving it of its political authority. At the new destination, the Berlin Wall, people are hacking away at it, working their way through it. The hammer blows of the "Mauerspechte" ("Wall Woodpeckers") continue for weeks. In the end, the concrete is again what it was before it was poured into form: mere material. It ends up as filler in road construction.

In this scene between the Reichstag and Potsdamer Platz, a "Mauerspecht " is sitting atop the Wall, one leg in the west, one in the east. The aesthetics of this time are permeated by contrasts: situations that seemed impossible a few days earlier allow people to breathe freedom and feel alive. Hours in which everything seems open.