Pieces of the 27-mile Berlin Wall are not the rarest of historical artifacts; it just takes a quick search on Ebay to find crumbled fragments of the physical barrier that separated free and communist sections of what’s now the German capital.
But metro Atlanta is home to at least three complete concrete slabs weighing multiple tons each — graffiti-faced stele that require cranes and trucks to move.
One a few years ago was bought at auction by a Serbian immigrant restaurateur, but the others have been installed on school campuses, standing as silent reminders for students who weren’t even alive during the not-so-distant period of separation.
Often ignored while standing imposingly on the campuses of Kennesaw State University and the Atlanta International School, these markers came alive earlier this month as backdrops to commemorations of the 30th anniversary of the wall’s fall.
The cathartic moment came on Nov. 9, 1989, when many in East Berlin clambered over or around the wall, or even passed through checkpoints, precipitating a chain of events that would lead to the reunification of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
On Nov. 10 at the Atlanta International School in Buckhead, a short film screening was followed by personal reflections and eyewitness accounts of the historic moment. Students and faculty then participated in a candlelight vigil at their segment.
In her remarks, Heike Fuller, Germany’s consul general in Atlanta, focused on the universality of the desire for freedom, noting that “citizens of East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, were the ones who physically toppled the wall, showing not only Germans had a stake in the ousting of the communist government.”
She added that the wall’s fall is a symbol of German-U.S. friendship, exemplified by the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe post-World War II and the Berlin Airlift, in which allied supply planes helped overcome a Soviet blockade of West Berlin in the first Cold War standoff after the war.
AIS received its piece of the wall six years ago, when new primary school head Camille Du Aime came to Atlanta from the Berlin Brandenburg International School in Germany, offering the section as a gift. A local concrete manufacturer was convinced to part with it.
“I was expecting to receive something in a perspex box, with a little plaque. I hadn’t counted on needing to hire a crane to install it,” joked headmaster Kevin Glass, who said at the event that it’s a privilege to have such a symbol of human hope and potential at the school, according to an AIS news release.
Marking the occasion makes sense, given the importance of the German community to the school, where German language is offered to 3- and 4-year-olds at the Early Learning Center and also as a dual immersion option for elementary schoolers, then as a regular foreign language course all the way through 12th grade. A German Christmas market will be held Dec. 7 at the school following an admissions session.
A few days before visiting AIS, Dr. Fuller had been at Kennesaw State University northwest of Atlanta, where a wreath was laid at another section of the wall in honor of the victims who died from the division sown by the wall and the Cold War.
The 12-foot, 2.7-ton piece sits on display outside the KSU College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Georgia State Sen. Chuck Clay donated it to honor his grandfather, who served as a top allied military advisor in Berlin during the time the wall stood.
“A little piece of Georgia will always be in Berlin because of my grandfather, and a piece of Berlin will be right here, too,” Mr. Clay reportedly said at a commemoration event that also featured personal perspectives on the significance of the wall.
According to a summary by the KSU office of communications, speakers also included Mason Kane, KSU international affairs and German student; Consul General Fuller; Major William Carraway, Georgia Army National Guard; and KSU President Pamela Whitten, who lived in Germany before and immediately after the wall’s fall.
Consul General Dr. Fuller will speak about the significance of the wall’s fall during an upcoming luncheon with Global Atlanta Dec. 9. Learn more about the event or sign up here: Consular Conversations: Luncheon/Interview With Germany’s Heike Fuller
Read Global Atlanta’s report on the 25th anniversary commemoration in 2014 at AIS here: The Berlin Wall: A Concrete Symbol of the Struggle Against Oppression
See all Berlin Wall coverage archives here.