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A Forgotten Portion of the Berlin Wall Has Been Found in the Woods

A German historian stumbled upon the chunk in 1999, but kept it a secret until now.

Other fragments of the Berlin Wall are prominently on display, and often decorated with graffiti art.
Other fragments of the Berlin Wall are prominently on display, and often decorated with graffiti art. Public Domain

In 1999, nine years after demolition began on the Berlin Wall, local historian Christian Bormann stumbled across an incredible fragment of history: 262 forgotten feet of it, in the suburb of Schönholz. Somehow, this stretch had gone unnoticed, with the bricks and the V-shaped brackets that once held looping barbed wire in near-perfect condition. To Bormann’s astonishment, he wrote on his blog, nearby there were also remnants of an early-20th century amusement park, converted by the Nazis into the Luna-Lager labor camp. He was shocked, but decided to keep his find a secret—for nearly 20 years.

This week, as reported in CityLab, Bormann went public with the discovery. He noticed worrying storm damage at the site, and vandalism seemed to be becoming more common. “In my opinion, this is a structure of outstanding cultural importance and therefore of particular historical value,” he wrote.I hope that the responsible authorities share my enthusiasm and act promptly.”

But how did such an important fragment escape the watchful eyes of those responsible authorities? The location has something to do with it—in suburban woods, wedged in between a cemetery and the S-Bahn railway tracks. There’s no particular reason why anyone would go exploring there. This section, from 1961, is one of the oldest, and most unprepossessing. Without the teeth of that barbed wire, it looks mostly like any other bit of forgotten concrete wall, spruced up with graffitied lettering that spells out “Berlin” among near-indecipherable tags.

From 1961 to 1989, the Berlin Wall divided communist East Berlin from democratic West Berlin, dividing a city and its families. Next month marks a blink-and-you’ll-miss it anniversary for the wall: 10,316 days since its demolition. After that, it will have been down as long as it was up. It seems unlikely that other parts of this wall are yet to be found—any that are still out there may yet fall foul to the forces Bormann is attempting to protect these 262 feet of concrete and brick from.