In 1989, as the world watched the Berlin Wall literally torn apart by hand, I remember saying to a colleague, “Darn, I haven’t seen it yet.”
What a stupid thing to say, for so many reasons.
Today, much of the Berlin Wall remains in the actual city of Berlin. Some of it has been turned into an art gallery carrying expressions of freedom by artists from around the world. And I have now had the opportunity to see it, and better understand all that it represented.
But much of the wall has been chopped up and sent off to museums, parks and communities around the world in an effort better educate the public and future generations about the wall and what it meant to isolate these people from the rest of the world. So even if you can’t make it to the great city of Berlin, make an effort to find some of the many places around the world where the wall exists. Touch it, feel it, understand it. Learn from it.
Three Places to See the Berlin Wall in the Midwest
In Fulton Mo, about an hour west of St. Louis on I-70, on the campus of Westminster College sits eight sections of the wall in an interesting sculpture called “Breakthrough.” What makes this sculpture more interesting is that it was created by Edwina Sandys, the granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill. In March 1946 Winston Churchill, responding to an invitation from his friend Harry Truman, spoke to the Westminster students. It was here that the term “Iron Curtain” was first uttered to describe the division of philosophy and geography between eastern and western Europe
A park in Rapid City South Dakota has more than just sections of the wall. In addition to pock-marked slabs of concrete, this park includes original tank traps that sat in no-man’s land. Tank traps are simply railroad ties twisted and welded together to impede tanks or other vehicles from moving quickly through this space. They were all over the beaches of Normandy in 1944.
This exhibit in Rapid City includes dramatic photos of the construction of the wall and people trying to escape, used with permission of a private museum located at Checkpoint Charlie. It is considered to be the most comprehensive collection of Berlin Wall artifacts outside of Berlin.
In Leavenworth KS, another nice exhibit is on the grounds of Fort Leavenworth. President Ronald Reagan donated these sections because of the worldwide influence of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. At first glance, it appears the installation is falling apart or is not well cared for. Instead, the one section falling over represents the wall crumbling, the one on the ground demonstrates the wall completing destroyed, but the one section standing upright indicates that freedom will always stand.
A few other places to see sections of the Berlin Wall in the U.S. include
- The Newseum, Washington DC
- National Underground Railroad Freedom Museum, Cincinnati
- National Museum of the Air Force, Dayton
- Richard Nixon Library, Yorba Linda CA
- Ronald Reagan Library, Simi Valley CA