Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online


When the Berlin Wall fell, the German capital was awash with so-called “Mauerspechte” or “Wallpeckers”. These were people with large hammers and masonry chisels who hacked out their very own piece of the wall for posterity. But Los Angeles advertising agency boss Alan Wolan says he went further and removed the original sign that stood at the famous east-west Wall crossing point “Checkpoint Charlie”.

It warned people in English, Russian, French and German that they were about to leave the city’s Allied western sector and enter its communist east. Mr Wolan says he stole the sign one June night in 1990 and shipped it to America in a container.

“It was a crazy time, everyone was taking stuff from around the wall,” he says today. The sign has been sitting in his garage for the past 23 years. Now he wants to sell it for €1m (£840,000). He says the money would “change his life”.

But a question mark hangs over its authenticity. The sign was replaced the day after it was stolen but the theft was never reported.

Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie Museum insists it was given the original by a US army colonel in 1991.

It says its sign has the number 16 written on it, whereas Mr Wolan’s has no such writing. Historians say the original would have had a number four written on it, but that it could also have been replaced with a no-number sign like Mr Wolan’s.

Confused? Mr Wolan may have to wait for that change of life.