Berlin Wall Fence Planned to Guard Against Souvenir-Hunting Tourists

Tourists looking for souvenirs will have to look elsewhere.

Twenty-six years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the remnants of the once-imposing structure are slowly but surely fading away, thanks in no small part to tourists eager to take home a small piece of history. The situation has gotten so bad that Berlin authorities have announced plans to construct a fence in front of the wall.

The Berlin Wall, which was erected in 1961, completely cut off residents of East Germany and East Berlin from those of West Berlin. On November 9, 1989, the East German government announced that its citizens were once again permitted to visit West Berlin and West Germany. Demolition on the wall began in June 1990 and was completed in 1992, but several sections were left standing as a monument. (To celebrate the 25th anniversary last year, artists Christopher Bauder and Marc Bauder reconstructed the wall in lights.)

“People come and pick and scratch at it with everything from keys to penknives, hoping to take a piece home with them,” Sascha Langenbach, the spokesman for the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, home to the section of the wall known as the “East Side Gallery,” told the Guardian. Without protection, authorities contend, the wall will not last the decade.

A mural on the Berlin Wall. Photo: Jason/Travel Junkies.

A mural on the Berlin Wall.
Photo: Jason/Travel Junkies.

The East Side Gallery, which is the longest remaining section of the wall and serves as a memorial, is covered in murals, which were the subject of a €2 million project renovation project as recently as 2009. Despite signs warning against graffiti, tourists are often compelled to leave their mark. Even worse are the so-called “woodpeckers” who are looking for a souvenir.

“It is a Sisyphean task to keep it clean,” the district’s chief technician Adalbert Maria Klees, in charge of removing graffiti, told the Guardian.

Authorities plan to put a hip-high steel fence that will keep tourists at arm’s length in place by the year’s end.

“It will not stop those who are really determined to get at it,” said Langenbach, “but it will send people the signal that this is not a free-for-all guestbook for all visitors to Berlin.”

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