I recently visited an office building that had a 3×4 foot section of the Berlin Wall. It’s been almost 20 years since that thing fell, and I still remember it clearly – how the Czechs opened their borders, and the East Germans began fleeing across there. How Kissinger and the punditocracy of the time predicted the Wall would last another three years – and it fell in 3 months. 1989 remains a seminal year in world history, and I am pleased to have been around to witness it.
I was surprised at how thin the wall section was – about 3 or 4 inches. One side was spray painted, the other was clean. What I found particularly interesting was that on the clean side – the East German one – the rebar poked through the concrete and was rusted. In fact the rebar itself was a thin wire fence-like mesh that ran very unevenly through the slab – from just behind the West German side to poking through on the East. It was surprisingly poorly centered and no doubt significantly weakened the structure. My guess was that the “business end” of the wall was the minefield and guard posts behind the clean side.
The Wall had lasted just shy of 40 years. During it’s lifetime, 1,245 people died trying to get through it. It’s purpose no longer exists, and now a chunk of it sits in an office building on the other side of the world. While I was there it held up a janitor’s broom and dust bucket that were propped against it.
In 1986 PJ O’Rourke noted about Communists and concrete…
Commies love concrete, but they don’t know how to make it. Concrete is a mixture of cement, gravel and straw? No? Gravel, water and wood pulp? Water, potatoes and lard? The concrete runway at Warsaw’s Miedzynarodowy airport is coming to pieces. From bumpy landing until bumpy take-off, you spend your time in Poland looking at bad concrete.
The Wall was made of pretty bad concrete. The Romans used it 2000 years ago and theirs is still around. If the wall hadn’t come down in 1989, my guess is that it would have crumbled by now.