In a message that would have likely gone unheeded, even if it hadn’t been turned away by the Secret Service, an attempt was made over the weekend to send President Trump a sizeable chunk of the Berlin Wall, with a missive attached noting: “no wall lasts forever.” The gesture falls on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an internal border wall that physically separated East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989, reflecting the divided political consciousness of the region for decades following World War II. During the time the wall was operational, restricting freedom of movement between the Eastern bloc and the “socialist state” in the West, 100,000 people attempted to cross the wall. About 5,000 of them were successful, but the recorded death toll is between 136 and 200.
The demolition of the wall was an internationally celebrated event, and remnants of the structure still stand in reunified Berlin today, as a reminder of hardship and futility of that attempt to limit the populace. In addition to sections of the wall that appear around the city and small pieces chipped away by souvenir-seekers, portions of the wall are displayed in several institutions, including in Freedom Park at Fort Gordon in Georgia (US), at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, and of course, at the Wall Museum and Eastside Gallery in Berlin.
The project put the writing on the wall for President Trump was initiated by the German nonprofit Die Offene Gesellschaft, and according to reporting by Insider, was funded through private donations. Emblazoned on this concrete totem, one of the last remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, is a letter from the “Citizens of Berlin” to the president; its digital analogue on the group’s website has nearly 3,500 signatures to date.
The letter, dated November 9, 2019, reads:
Dear President Trump,
This is an original piece of the Berlin Wall. For 28 years, it separated east and west, families, and friends.
It divided not only Berlin and Germany, but the whole world. Too many people died trying to cross it—their only crime being their desire to be free. Today the world celebrates the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Germany is united again, and only a few scattered pieces remind us that no wall lasts forever.
For decades, the United States played a major role in bringing this wall down. From John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, the Presidents of the USA fought against it.
We would like to give you one of the last pieces of the failed Berlin Wall to commemorate the United States’ dedication to building a world without walls.
Citizens of Berlin
Die Offene Gesellschaft managing director, Philip Husemann, is quoted by Quartz as saying that to purchase one of the wall’s few remaining pieces from a dealer in Berlin cost “in the low five-figure range,” including transport overseas.
After being denied at the White House, it is en route to be displayed in San Diego, California, making stops on its bi-coastal road trip.
As usual, acts of subtle shade, goodwill, and genuine hope for a better world were entirely lost on the president, whose Secret Service rejected the delivery of this five-figure reminder of the futility of limiting human freedom and cheapening the hope of better life on which our country was founded.