Friday, September 13, 2013

The Berlin Wall: A Part of World History in Denton, Texas

Two concrete fragments from the Berlin Wall sit on permanent display on the second floor of the Blagg-Huey 
Library on the Denton campus of TWU.  Photograph by Sean Spear.
Pioneers now have a chance to see, first-hand, a part of world history.

In an unassuming cabinet in the Blagg-Huey Library on the Denton campus, tucked next to the Administration Office (room 208) on the library's second floor, sit two pieces of marked concrete which, to the naked eye, seem rather unremarkable.  In reality, however, these two chunks (and many more like them) were once part of one of the most powerful and enduring symbols of the Cold War--the Berlin Wall.

Why A Wall?
On August 13, 1961, the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) began construction of a barbed wire and concrete "antifascist bulwark" between East and West Berlin. Ostensibly to keep Western "fascists" from entering East Germany, in reality it primarily served to stem mass defections from East to West.

The Fall of the Wall
The Berlin Wall stood until November 9, 1989, when the head of the East German Communist Party announced that citizens of the GDR could cross the border whenever they pleased.  That night, ecstatic crowds swarmed the wall.  Some crossed freely into West Berlin, while others brought hammers and picks and began to chip away at the wall itself.

A 5,000-Mile Journey
From Berlin, Germany to Denton, Texas.  How did two pieces of world history--marked Pioneer '75 and Women + Men--come to be on display in North Texas?  Gifts from Chris Morrison to the TWU Honors Scholars Program and its director, Dr. Alfred G. Litton, the concrete mementos were presented to the university on January 16, 2012.  The piece marked Pioneers ’75 was formerly located on a part of the Berlin Wall known as The East Side Gallery (during the communist occupation of East Germany, this section was used as a canvas for writings about the suppression of the local people.)  The pieces, in a display curated by Woman's Collection staff members, are now on permanent display in the Blagg-Huey Library.

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