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Large section of Berlin Wall demolished to make way for condos

History, erased

Large section of Berlin Wall demolished to make way for condos

A very short segment of the Hinterlandmauer, or inner wall, in St. Hedwig Cemetery, Berlin. Unlike this protected section, a much larger segment in nearby Pankow was just demolished. (Wikimedia Commons

Just several short months after the 30th anniversary marking the fall of the Berlin Wall, a nearly 200-foot remaining section of the concrete blockade was razed to make way for a luxury condo development in the northeastern borough of Pankow.

While not particularly touristy compared to wall remnants found in central Berlin such as the East Side Gallery, this particular stretch of graffiti-clad wall embankment, hidden away in suburban Pankow, was one of the largest surviving sections of the 96-mile-long Berlin Wall and one of the last pieces of the Hinterlandmauer, or inner wall, remaining in the once-divided German capital.

As Artnet notes, the Hinterlandmauer was built in the 1970s, a decade after the main wall, as a reinforcement barrier with the Pankow section running parallel to a now-shuttered railroad line that connected Berlin to the Polish border city of Szczecin.

While not protected as a historical site, Smithsonian Magazine noted that the Berlin Wall Foundation did reveal plans to preserve part of Pankow’s overlooked inner wall—which stood about 11 feet high and was erected roughly 1,600 feet from the main wall—last fall ahead of the city’s reunification anniversary celebrations.

An October article published in weekly magazine Berliner Woche directly mentions the potential preservation scheme, while also noting proposed plans to turn the disused stretch of railway tracks adjacent to the inner wall into a “cycling highway.”

“Today the hinterland wall is surrounded by trees and bushes. This part of the former border security system is only known to residents and obviously a number of graffiti sprayers. The Berlin Wall Foundation and the DDR Museum are currently working to ensure that this section is maintained. The chances are pretty good because the property is already owned by the state.”

As Der Tagesspiegel reported, the Berlin Wall Foundation and other historical groups were unaware of plans to demolish the 196-foot-long section of inner wall. Upon learning the news, they were left “horrified.”

“The partial demolition of the continuous piece of hinterland wall on the Dolomitenstraße is a clear loss of original wall remains,” Manfred Wichmann, a curator with the Berlin Wall Foundation, explained to German daily Der Tagesspiegel. “This was a testimony to how deeply the border regime of the GDR intervened in the everyday life of the people in East Berlin.”

City officials, however, seemed largely unsympathetic to the outrage of historians and preservationists. “No protected status was determined by the monument authorities; the foundation had obviously campaigned too late to preserve it,” City Building Councilor Vollrad Kuhn told Tagesspiegel.

Der Tagesspiegel also noted that just months earlier Wichmann and others had stressed the vital importance of preserving more obscure remaining sections of the wall. Sören Marotz, exhibition director of the DDR Museum, also played up how the upcoming bike path could help to meaningfully increase exposure to Pankow’s inner wall. “This shows that such historical locations and new usage concepts go well together,” he said.

Wichmann noted that just under a mile-and-a-half of original Berlin Wall segments are still standing in Berlin proper and although the demolished stretch in Pankow was not part of the main wall, it was a significant loss nevertheless. “They are disappearing more and more,” said Wichmann.

As noted by ABC News, a plan to demolish the famed East Gallery in 2013 to make way for a luxury high-rise development along the Spree River was “met with outrage and public protest.” Still, some segments of the East Gallery were ultimately removed.