Segments of the Berlin Wall can be found in cities around the world, from Paris to Moscow and beyond. Surprisingly Prague, a city which played a key role in the events leading up to the wall’s collapse, hasn’t been one of them — until now.
Last Thursday, founder of A&O Hostels Oliver Winter unveiled a section of the Berlin Wall in front of the newly opened A&O Hostel in Strašnice.
Winter, who hails from the former communist German Democratic Republic (GDR), told local reporters that the fragment symbolizes a time of non-freedom and the division of Europe through the Iron Curtain.
One side of the wall features a black-and-white portrait of the former West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, his face colored by Czech flag; the opposite side shows images of famous landmarks from Berlin’s Alexander Square.
The portrait is significant because, in the summer of 1989, thousands of citizens of communist East Germany sought refuge at the West German embassy in Prague in a prelude to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It was from the balcony of the West German embassy in Malá Strana that Genscher told the crowds of refugees camping out in the gardens of Lobkowicz Palac, that they would be allowed to travel to the West.
The announcement resonated throughout Central Europe, with many seeing these events as a sign that totalitarian regimes in their own countries were on the verge of collapse; this historic event was said to have contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of that same year.
Following the fall of the 3.6 meters (12 ft) high guarded concrete barrier, which physically and ideologically divided the current German metropolis between 1961 and 1989, pieces of it were bestowed upon museums and institutes worldwide, including EU Parliament and NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The Wende Museum in Culver City, California recently augmented its piece of the wall by ten additional sections, constituting the longest stretch outside of Berlin.
The Prague segment was unveiled on October 4, symbolically the day after the 28th anniversary of the reunification of Germany.