On 9 November, Germany and Europe commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. The generation of our young people were not born when this major event in European history took place in 1989. For people like me who remember this special historic day, 9 November carries a special significance. That’s why I’m leading you to Paris. There are three sections of the Berlin Wall in Paris that are located on public spaces. I have been visiting all of them. Here are their exact location…
When the Berlin Wall fell down
If you’re not familiar with the History of the Berlin Wall, just have a look at this video. It recalls why it was built and when it fell:
The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer) physically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989.
The German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) started the building of the concrete barrier on 13 August 1961. As a result, it cut off West Berlin from East Berlin, hence forming an enclave within East Germany.
In doing so, the socialist East German State intended to protect its population from the West influence.
Between 1961 and 1989, freedom of movement ceased between the two sides. Over 100,000 East Germans attempted to escape. 5,000 succeeded and 136 to 200 people died.
1989 was a landmark year in European history. A series of revolutions in the Eastern Bloc countries (Poland and Hungary) led to a chain reaction in the GDR. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Berlin and West Germany.
East and West Berliners pressed towards the wall. In a celebratory atmosphere they crossed and climbed onto the wall, knocked down parts of it.
Demolition of the wall started on 13 June 1990 and ended in November 1991.
In the meantime, the reunification of Germany formally took place on 3 October 1990.
? Find out more about the Berlin Wall on wikipedia.
Where to find the Berlin Wall in Paris?
On a previous post I wrote about the day when I discovered a section of the Berlin Wall in the 16th arrondissement. I wanted to find out more and learnt that there were at least three visible sections standing across the French capital.
Zoom in to get the exact location of the wall sections!
Porte de Versailles (15th arr.)
Porte de Versailles is best known for the Paris exhibition centre (Parc des Expositions de Paris). It is served by métro line number 12. From the métro platform, take the number 2 exit which will lead you to the Esplanade du 9 novembre 1989. Turn back to the direction of the vast square and cross the first lane at the pedestrian crossings. The section of the wall stands there on its own… and to be honest with you, nobody really takes notice of it.
The small section of the Berlin Wall was inaugurated on the 29 June 2009 in the presence of the mayors of Paris and Berlin.
Maison de la Radio (16th arr.)
Out of the three sections of the Berlin wall in Paris, the one found outside the Maison de la Radio has been given the best of care. It stands in the garden that borders the Maison de la Radio.
In addition, an informative panel tells the story of this piece of wall. From which district of Berlin it comes from and when it was planted here in Paris.
Find out more about the Berlin Wall by the Maison de la Radio with a historic account of the Berlin Wall [in French].
La Défense business district
The historic piece of concrete is the largest in Paris. But it is also the least known. I do know the business district of La Défense quite well. However to find this three-panel section of the wall was really a hard task. Well, I found it away from any major public footpaths and roads… in a place that does not look very safe:
To see the other side of the wall,you’ll have to go down there (gasp!) and stand by the small tree and the dirty pavement. You’ll be spoilt with this:
That said, this piece of concrete of the Berlin Wall is very well preserved. It used to stand along the Waldemarstrasse in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. German artist Kiddy Citny and French musician Thierry Noir created the paintings in 1984.
Where to find the Berlin Wall in other parts of France?
Paris is not the only city in French speaking countries to keep sections of the Wall. A number of towns across the country proudly display small parts of it. A few examples:
- Angers: Le Quai (Angers’ cultural centre)
- Brussels: European Parliament (nicknamed « Kennedy ») and NATO headquarters.
- Caen: War Memorial (Mémorial de Caen)
- Geneva: Parc du Conseil œcuménique des Eglises, Grand Saconnex.
- Marseille: Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations
- Monaco: at the railway station
- Miramas: opposite Lycée Jean Cocteau and Théâtre de la Colonne
- Schengen, Luxembourg: the section stands near the location where European leaders signed the Schengen convention.
- Strasbourg: European Court of Human Rights
- Tavaux: at the roundabout Rond-point des Droits de l’Homme
- Verdun: World Peace Centre (Centre mondial de la Paix, des Libertés et des Droits de l’Homme)
Isn’t it amazing the value we give to objects? Without their historic element, these pieces of concrete would mean nothing to us all! Therefore, they are witnesses to European history… when the Iron Curtain divided Europe.
Do you know other places in Paris or France where to see sections of the Berlin Wall? Let us know by commenting below!