Remembering the Berlin Wall: The Wall Memorial Ensemble Bernauer Strasse


  • Gerd Knischewski and,

  • Ulla Spittler


Remembrance and commemoration of the National Socialist past have always been contentious issues within the political culture of West Germany. After unification this process of ‘coming to terms with the past’ began to include the ‘second German dictatorship’ in the form of the GDR. In the 1990s, GDR remembrance projects mushroomed, mainly centring on the border and the activities of the ‘Stasi’. It is tempting to view these remembrance debates in a Left versus Right, or anti-fascist versus anti-totalitarian, analytical framework. A case study of the Berlin Wall Memorial site and ‘Documentation Center’ in Bernauer Strasse shows that remembrance of the Wall indeed has high potential for instrumentalisation in political-ideological conflicts. However, several other factors have also contributed to the development of this remembrance of the Wall, and its improvised form and content. Apart from an added East–West dimension, there are: the sheer number and diversity of participants and interested parties, the institutional fragmentation of competencies and responsibilities, a ‘psychology of resentment’, the scarcity of resources, the controversial aesthetics of remembrance, accidental factors such as post-unification property legislation and the opposing roles of two church parishes, shifting political agendas and, finally, the demands of the tourism industry.