The Wall

Exactly twenty-nine years ago my parents crossed the border from East to West Berlin. I clearly remember entering West Berlin. It felt as if we had embarked on a new world adventure. The city was full of life and prosperity. Freedom was in the air. On the west side of the Berlin Wall were special platforms where you could climb up and look over the wall. It was a surreal experience for someone who had spent his childhood living behind the red curtain.

We were there quite late at night. If you looked left you could see the lights of a vibrant city, music, laughter and noise – lots of it – but the sounds were not annoying, not at all.

If you looked right you saw this unsettling darkness broken by lights on ghostly and menacing towers which found any lost souls who were brave enough to escape. Then there was this silence. It was the silence you fear in a horror movie when the music pauses and you know the scary bit is coming. I will never forget this stark contrast between two worlds separated by the Berlin Wall.

Visiting Berlin and its historic sites revived my childhood memories of living in communist Poland, the implementation of Marshall Law, the Solidarity movement and all the tragedies and horrors of that time. The visit to the Berlin Wall Memorial was especially striking, as the stories of people trying to escape hit me very hard. 

Today as I write this I have difficulty believing that just a few months after my visit in 1989, the Berlin Wall collapsed.  

Let me share with you some imagery I took during this emotional visit to Berlin with the X100F. 

 

When in Berlin you must visit the extraordinary and powerful Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The simplicity of design and the symbolism of this memorial site touched me deeply. It was one of those rare moments when I raised my camera and felt…deep down inside…my emotions and my seeing as one.

 

 

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11 thoughts on “The Wall

  1. Very moving post. We gained an insight into life behind the wall visiting these memorials during our trip to Berlin. However I don’t believe any memorial can fully impart your very real life experiences

  2. Greetings Olaf:

    This post, for me, is beyond the analysis on photographic imagery that we usually do. It sounds me as a travel into your past, your life, into the real “persona” that you are, a revisitation. So, for me, the value of this post would come not from the imagery itself, but form the fact that, through it, you achieved us to realize, even somehow live, what you experienced.

    And you did it. At least with me. The imagery and the text led me into a state of mind in which I can feel very close to your experiences. A memorable post for me, far beyond pure imagery. A reverence to you…

    Warm regards

    p.s. It is said that good photographs goes by their own, without text. I’ve never agreed with that, and this post is a good example about it.

  3. Olaf,
    As always, I am touched by your latest photos. Your trip to Berlin, or should I say, your “life experience” in Berlin moved me. I too had the experience of being in Berlin, before and after the wall. It was one of these life experiences that is difficult to describe. One has to live it to understand the emotions that surface: the fear, the angst and the sadness. Thank you for sharing. You have a unique way of blending your natural gift, acquired knowledge as photographer and your personal experiences.

  4. How strange it must have been then; to see two very different worlds created and held apart by several inches of concrete. I remember the news reports leading up to the felling of the wall and the front pages of several newspapers the day it came down. I’m almost ashamed to admit it but until reading your post, i remembered it as an American, as an American victory in the Cold War, as an American victory over communism. Don’t take that as ashamed to be american, but as that I remembered it from a very narrow perspective. But now, having met you (albeit not in person yet); someone who lived through it and followed your work and creativity, I find myself remembering it more as a human being and what it must have meant to all those that lived beneath its shadow. In a place such as that, I wonder if in the long hours of the night you can still feel the echoes from the past.

    1. Devon,

      You honest and deep note means a lot to me. Thank you so much.

      Warm Regards,

      Olaf

      P.S. Yes, we need to meet in person.

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