TO MILLIONS the Berlin Wall — which as of today has been down for longer than it was up — was above all a symbol. It was a by-word for division and the post-war era in Europe. It played stage to an evolving caste of monumental historical figures: JFK, Willy Brandt, Walter Ulbricht, Ronald Reagan, Helmut Kohl. Its gave way to German reunification and the birth of the euro.
But it was also the cause of countless private tragedies. It severed families. It destroyed opportunities. 173 East Germans were killed trying to cross it. One, 18-year-old Peter Fechter, was shot in 1962 while trying to scale the wall and left to bleed to death in the no-man’s-land, West German soldiers throwing him bandages in vain.
The Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it was up: 28 years, two months and 27 days.