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'Witnesses of history': the man who kept slabs of the Berlin Wall

“The Berlin Wall was once lifted – it didn’t fall,” insists Hans Martin Fleischer. The bureaucrat produces images and picture pictures shot on handheld digital camera on 12 November 1989 – 3 days after the East German border was once first breached. They display the primary segments of the concrete barrier that had encircled West Berlin for 28 years being got rid of at evening, amid a sea of digital camera flashes and applause.

Sparks fly as a employee in a difficult hat makes use of an attitude grinder to slice an enormous slab emblazoned with a crimson swastika from one bearing an interlocking hammer and sickle – graffiti painted at the western facet in protest on the 1939 non-aggression pact between the Stalinist and Nazi regimes, which prepared the ground for the second one global conflict and the ensuing department of Europe that resulted in the development of the Berlin Wall.

Like a wobbly enamel, the slab in the end offers manner after being driven from side to side via ripper tooth, ahead of it’s hoisted via crane like a trophy above the incredulous, cheering crowds on Potsdamer Platz.

“The communist government of East Germany (who remained in energy till March 1990) choreographed that, I’m certain,” says Fleischer, a passion historian who has forensically studied the occasions of November 1989.

Making the primary inside town hollow within the Berlin Wall was once the surest signal but that the government, opposite to standard fears on the time, had been interested by pulling it down. It was once transparent that pictures of the motion would move around the world. That, coupled with the East German regime’s repeated makes an attempt through the years to characterise the barrier as an “anti-fascist coverage rampart” – “of their minds what higher image may just they have got selected to dismantle first than the swastika?” Fleischer says.

Thirty years on, he pulls open the creaking door of a warehouse in a wooded location midway between Berlin and the Baltic coast that he wish to stay secret. The usage of a ship hook, he eliminates a big blue tarpaulin to show the swastika slab of wall, three.6m prime and weighing 2.7 tonnes, along side 3 different items which as soon as stood along it on Potsdamer Platz. Pitted with holes from the pickaxe heads of border guards who chipped away at them ahead of they had been moved into garage, they’re now rather actually collecting cobwebs, quite than, as would possibly were anticipated, in a museum.

Hans Martin Fleischer was driven by both historical fascination and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Hans Martin Fleischer was once pushed via each historic fascination and an entrepreneurial spirit. : Christian Jungeblodt

Fleischer, then a pupil of industrial management, was once pushed each via historic fascination and an entrepreneurial spirit to shop for up the wall segments on an impulse in 1990.

“I went to Japan in a while after the wall got here down, and took small segments with me which were given snapped up via everybody I met,” he says. “I used to be inspired there via industry folks to seek out some intact items that I will have to purchase and send to Japan and I favored the industry doable.”

He approached Limex, the corporate arrange via the East German state secret police, the Stasi, to unload the 155-km stretch of concrete along side the watchtowers and different ramifications, who in the beginning gave the impression stunned on the passion however quickly realised the chance to earn cash.

“They gave me a plastic folder containing web page after web page of images of the sections. They had been randomly numbered, however I controlled to seek out the 4 items that were adjoining to one another. They sought after 385,00zero deutschmarks for them,” Fleischer remembers. The events sooner or later agreed on a five-figure quantity, although he does now not wish to disclose precisely how a lot. “I borrowed some cash from amongst others, my dad, a historical past instructor, who preferred their symbolic worth above all”.

The care for the Jap businessmen fell thru. A sale to a Monacan public sale space due to this fact collapsed, he believes as it coincided with a neo-Nazi assault on a Jewish cemetery. Numerous museums and wall enthusiasts additionally grew to become him down. “The swastika made it inconceivable to promote,” he says. “I believe if Mickey Mouse were on them, it could were a distinct tale: easier, much less divisive.”


Pastime within the wall quickly started to wane, with the conflict in Yugoslavia due to this fact casting a shadow over the euphoric temper that had gripped Europe following the toppling of communist governments from Poland to Romania. He put the segments in garage.

“I assumed it could be sensible to attend till the 10th anniversary and make allowance a undeniable historification procedure to happen ahead of making an attempt my good fortune once more,” Fleischer says. He resisted the urge, as no less than one extremely a success businessman has executed, to wreck his artefacts into loads of 1000’s of fragments, which proceed to be bought in Berlin memento retail outlets and on the web, once in a while accompanied with a certificates of authentication, for as much as 50 euros a work. “I used to be transparent from the beginning those robust witnesses of historical past, marking the primary reduce within the Berlin Wall, needed to keep intact and in combination,” he says.

Having lengthy since shelved his ambitions to promote his remnants, Fleischer’s historic passion has simplest grown. He made a life-sized, unusually real looking replica of the now misplaced hammer and sickle segment out of styrofoam and has transported it at the roof rack of his automotive to over 20 nations. His accompanying photographic venture has captured it subsequent to the Eiffel tower, drawing smiles in war-torn portions of Ukraine and on a plinth along Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid. His message, the self-proclaimed “maueraktivist”, or wall activist, says, in connection with the non violent folks’s revolution of 1989, is: “human movements can alternate the whole thing.”

Fleischer’s styrofoam Berlin Wall on tour in Paris.

Fleischer’s styrofoam Berlin Wall on excursion in Paris. : Martin Fleischer

He has plans to go with the flow it within the Mediterranean in protest at refugee drownings and to take it to Northern Eire, amid Brexit ambitions to reinstate the border there.

He has additionally nonetheless now not given up on his makes an attempt to re-erect the unique wall segments someplace, preferably on or as shut as imaginable to their unique location. He produces the correct coordinates as to the place it as soon as stood. Hogging the website online now’s a nondescript gleaming glass and urban business block, conventional of the brand new builds to have sprung up alongside the previous wall course previously 3 a long time. The landlord, a Spanish assets developer with headquarters registered in Luxembourg, has now not answered to his request for a gathering to talk about, as he put it to them, the potential of “striking the segments, essential symbols of Eu department, on public show”, or on the very least relating to their former presence there.

Hans Martin Fleischer with a pick axe at the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Hans Martin Fleischer with a pick out awl on the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Fleischer remembers leaving behind the celebration he was once at when TV information reviews began coming thru that the primary openings had gave the impression in East Germany’s borders. The-then 24 12 months previous perched himself prime at the column of the Böse Bridge in northern Berlin, and watched for hours the move of Trabant automobiles roll over the bridge into the west.

“I assumed how fortunate I were as a west German to were at the ‘proper’ facet of the border, while all the ones folks around the communist east had suffered, in impact been punished for the crimes of Nazi Germany, thru a long time of department and entrapment. Now finally they had been unfastened.”

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