Tales of per­se­cuted lives at the Ber­lin Wall

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - GLOBE LIFE & ARTS - MICHELLE MARTIN

Anopen-air in­stal­la­tion is to open along an old sec­tion of the Ber­lin Wall on the week­end, fea­tur­ing pho­tos of sol­diers pa­trolling the former deadly bor­der and sto­ries of those per­se­cuted be­hind it.

Be­yond the Wall – 229 me­tres long and fac­ing the west – is de­signed to keep alive the mem­ory of the di­vid­ing wall put up by Com­mu­nist East Ger­man au­thor­i­ties nearly 56 years ago on Aug. 13, 1961.

It fell in Novem­ber, 1989, be­cause of mass pop­u­lar pres­sure and the de­cline of Soviet Union power.

The new ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures stills from videos that Ger­manAmer­i­can artist Ste­fan Roloff shot of the Ber­lin Wall from the west in 1984 – in­clud­ing East Ger­man sol­diers peer­ing through binoc­u­lars, climb­ing lad­ders up to watch­tow­ers and walk­ing along the Wall.

“There are very few au­then­tic places where you can still see what’s left of the Wall,” Klaus Led­erer, a Ber­lin se­na­tor re­spon­si­ble for cul­ture told a news con- fer­ence.

The ex­hi­bi­tion also fea­tures sto­ries and sil­hou­ettes of peo­ple whose lives were af­fected by the Wall – in­clud­ing a man who au- thor­i­ties ac­cused of hav­ing a fetish, a woman ar­rested for re­ceiv­ing a post­card from a friend in West Ber­lin and an­other woman who whose apart­ment was bugged by the East Ger­man Stasi se­cret po­lice.

Mario Roel­lig is one of the vic­tims whose story is told. The Stasi in­ter­ro­gated and im­pris­oned him after he tried to flee to the West to be with his boyfriend. He re­mem­bers a Stasi of­fi­cer telling him they would find him any­where.

Years later, when Roel­lig was work­ing in a shop in re­uni­fied Ber­lin, he re­al­ized a cus­tomer in­quir­ing about cigars was his Stasi in­ter­roga­tor. Roel­lig asked for an apol­ogy, but the man screamed that his sen­tence was right­ful.

“It’s im­por­tant to talk about it so I can get rid of the fear of this place, that time and above all the per­pe­tra­tors who are still around,” he told Reuters at the Wall.

Roel­lig – who now lives in west­ern Ber­lin – said mem­o­ries of the past bub­ble up when he crosses a bor­der and he feels un­able to ever spend a night at his par­ents’ home in east­ern Ber­lin.

“To this day I can’t stay there overnight, as I seem to still be anx­ious that the Wall will be put back up and I’ll be on the wrong side again,” he said.

Mean­while, Roloff, an artist, be­lieves his ex­hi­bi­tion is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant at a time when U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump wants to build a wall along the bor­der with Mex­ico.

“For me, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a his­toric pro­ject even though it shows things from a time that has passed. It’s a con­tin­u­ing phe­nom­e­non. There have been walls as long as peo­ple have ex­isted and un­for­tu­nately they’ll con­tinue to ex­ist,” he said.

HAN­NI­BAL HAN­SCHKE/REUTERS

Ste­fan Roloff stands in front of his in­stal­la­tion, Be­yond The Wall, in Ber­lin on Aug. 4. Roloff be­lieves his ex­hi­bi­tion is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant at a time when U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump seeks to build a wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

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