Westminster College Students Recreate, Then Tear Down, the Berlin Wall

Categories: Community, History
It was 20 years ago today that the Berlin Wall fell. Tonight the Berlin Wall will fall again, sort of, this time at Westminster College in Fulton.

Westminster has a special connection to the wall; it was here, in 1946, that Winston Churchill delivered his famous Iron Curtain speech, and the college owns eight sections of the wall, the largest contiguous piece in the world outside Berlin.

Last spring the German Embassy contacted Westminster officials about participating in some activities to commemorate the falling of the wall. This week, there will be films and debates and a poster contest. But undoubtedly the highlight will be at 6:53 this evening -- exactly when the original wall fell 20 years ago (Missouri time) -- when students will topple a replica of the Berlin Wall they built themselves.

Rob Crouse
A replica of the Berlin Wall, built by students at Westminster College.
Construction on the replica wall began in August. About fifteen students worked on it, mostly drawn from the college's history and Classics clubs and, in a gesture of bipartisanship, both the Young Democrats and the Young Republicans. "It was a fun experience," says Philip Mohr, a senior from Maryland Heights who was one of the project's organizers. "It was especially fun for the students who had no experience in carpentry. Mistakes were made."

Unlike the original wall, which was concrete and steel, the replica was made from lumber and drywall. Each section is eight feet tall and four feet long. "It's the same thickness as a wall in your house," says Mohr. "It's close to the dimensions of the real Berlin Wall. The real wall was actually two walls with space in between to keep people from jumping over."

The real wall was also topped by barbed wire, but the replica will only have cardboard tubes.

Last week, the eight sections of the replica wall were displayed on the Westminster campus and in the town of Fulton and neighboring William Woods University and taken to local schools. Students and townspeople were invited to paint their own graffiti in imitation of the painting on the original wall.

Rob Crouse
Foreground: original Berlin Wall. Background: Berlin Wall of Westminster.
"The schoolchildren mostly wrote their names," says Mohr. "They had limited time and they needed to give everyone a chance. At William Woods, the wall was painted by art classes and the graffiti focused around freedom and democracy. At Westminster there was quite a bit about freedom, and peace and love and a lot of peace signs. I'm not sure if anybody recreated anything from the original wall, but someone spraypainted 'Stasi' and crossed it out."

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