Berliners angered by 'Disneyland' recreation of the Iron Curtain divide

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The Independent Online

Controversial work to reconstruct a 600ft section of the Berlin Wall in the centre of the German capital has provoked protests from politicians, historians and former victims of Communism who claim that the project smacks of "Disneyland".

Controversial work to reconstruct a 600ft section of the Berlin Wall in the centre of the German capital has provoked protests from politicians, historians and former victims of Communism who claim that the project smacks of "Disneyland".

The plan has been launched by a privateBerlin museum which aims to create a "wall memorial" to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the historic breaching of the concrete and barbed wire dividing line in November 1989.

Construction workers have already begun reinstalling 120 sections of the former barrier on a site near Checkpoint Charlie, the former allied military crossing point between what was once capitalist West Berlin and the Communist East.

"For people who never experienced it, the wall might just as well never have existed," said Alexandra Hildebrandt, the director of Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which is behind the project. "It is a question of building a memorial so that people don't forget."

Scores of souvenir merchants who use the site to market Communist memorabilia to tourists have been ordered to leave to allow the project to go ahead. In their place will be 120 sections of original concrete wall that will be decorated by artists from North and South Korea, Israel and Palestine.

"These countries have also suffered the experience of division," said Mrs Hildebrandt, whose museum has leased the derelict site for the project until the end of the year. "We shall be fighting to keep the memorial as long as possible."

However the absence of watchtowers, barbed wire, the so-called death strip and Kalashnikov-toting East German border guards with orders to shoot on sight defectors to the West has angered many victims of the former Communist regime. They claim that the project does nothing to inform people that more than 1,000 East Germans were killed trying to escape over the wall during the Communist era.

Hubertus Knabe, the head of Berlin's Stasi secret police museum, which commemorates more than a quarter of a million victims of East German Communism, said: "The Berlin Wall was a monstrosity, but this project renders it harmless and banal. Any young person looking at it would think: 'What were the East Germans so afraid of?'"

Peter Hussock, 61, a former East German citizen who was imprisoned in East Berlin for trying to escape to the West, said: "The reconstructed wall has nothing to do with the real thing. It is upsetting to see the truth distorted in this way."

Other critics include Walter Momper, the mayor of West Berlin in 1989: "The wall was an instrument of murder, not a tourist attraction," he said. "There are a few places in Berlin where the wall is still standing. They are authentic - everything else is Disneyland.

"What we need is a proper memorial that reveals the full horror of the wall," he said.

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