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‘It has to go away, but at the same time it has to be kept’: the Berlin Wall and the making of an urban icon


For 28 years, from 13 August 1961 through 9 November 1989, the city of Berlin was divided by a wall. The borderline was the symbol for the Cold War and the political partition between East and West – but it was also an element of the urban structure: Berliners in the two parts of the city had to live with it and to define themselves in relation to it. After the fall of the wall and its destruction in the euphoric mood of re-unification, a huge inner-urban wasteland became the symbol for the need of a new politics of memory: the missing Berlin Wall became an urban icon.

What business do we have in Berlin? Memories.

Uwe Johnson

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Urban History
  • ISSN: 0963-9268
  • EISSN: 1469-8706
  • URL: /core/journals/urban-history
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Urban Icons
Urban Icons Aug 10, 2006 Final version

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