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"The Berlin Wall: Over 25 Years After Fall"
Tracking the Remnant from the Wedding District to the Oberbaum Bridge
If you are planning to visit Berlin, one of the most unconventional and fascinating tours should include tracing the path of the historic Berlin Wall.
Author and photographer Marques Vickers takes you on a detailed visual tour with his book “The Berlin Wall: Over 25 Years After Fall”. The 205-page edition showcases the changes, constructions and alterations to the terrain that for thirty-eight years divided Berlin. His 325 photographs intimately detail the core of the city’s center, commencing from the northern Wedding district to southern Oberbaum Bridge. Concise commentary illuminates the background of prominent structures, memorials and historical events.
Over twenty-five years have followed the permanent dismantlement of the concrete slab barrier. Few remnant sections still remain. The outline of the wall has been identified locally through dual rectangular cobblestones embedded in the streets, walkways and under structures. The reader accompanies Vickers on this visual pathway showcasing what remains and what has been reconstructed since the German reunification of 1990. Vickers’ prior visit to the city was in 1996 when many of the major construction projects first commenced.
According to Vickers, “Unified Berlin is not a mausoleum of antiquated remembrance. The city radiates vibrancy. It has successfully integrated the shame of historical actions, consequences and memorials into its present tense. The majority of new constructions are located within the former territories of East Berlin. That land was essentially vacant in 1989 when the Wall was first permanently breeched. Due to its previous proximity to the Wall, the real estate then was significantly undervalued. This valuation discrepancy no longer exists.”
Amongst his most notable images include the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Adolph Hitler’s Bunker site, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Potsdamer Platz, Checkpoint Charlie, East Side Gallery, Lantag of Prussia Building, Topography of Terror Museum, foundational remains of the Gestapo headquarters, Oberbaum Bridge and the lone stretch of remaining undeveloped No Man’s Land in the core of Berlin. His visual documentary also includes residential, commercial and governmental buildings, cemeteries, memorials and neighborhoods.
The Berlin Wall’s creation did not immediately follow the conclusion of World War II. The East German Democratic Republic (GDR) was established in 1949 under Soviet Union occupation. Russian domination proved unpopular amongst a large percentage of the eastern population. A 1953 Berlin worker’s uprising directly challenged Russian authority and was brutally crushed. The sole outlet for protest and discontent became flight to West Germany via the portal of Berlin.
Within twelve years of existence, the GDR had lost 20% of its population, particularly badly need skilled laborers and professionals. At the summit of the exodus, approximately 1,000 people per day were defecting to the West. On August 13, 1961, East Berlin residents awoke to barbed wire fencing that had been installed dividing the city’s east and west sectors. Dual concrete barricades incrementally fortified this temporary barrier.
The failure of the GDR and the Berlin Wall remain valid lessons for today. Insight may be perceived regarding Russia’s renewed foreign policy aggressiveness and political discussions about the construction of national barriers.
Vickers’ edition illustrates how Berlin expediently revitalized desolate urban wasteland into aesthetic and functional relevance. “The Berlin Wall: Over 25 Years After Fall” is the perfect travel accompaniment for viewing a fascinating slice of Berlin many tourists overlook. The work can also serve as a valuable reference overview even if one never sets foot in the city.
"Vladimir Putin and Dresden Germany: The Genesis of Myth Making"
Author and Photographer Marques Vickers examines a propaganda story introduced by Russian President Vladimir Putin crediting himself with single-handedly defusing a hostile East German crowd intent on ransacking the Dresden KGB offices in 1989. Vickers’ book “Vladimir Putin and Dresden, Germany: The Genesis of Myth Making”, recounts the narrative, first related in Putin’s published memoirs “First Person” (2000) and later embellished in a 2009 broadcast via a Russian national television documentary.
Between 1985 and 1990, Putin was stationed as a KGB officer in Dresden, Germany, the third largest city of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). He was officially titled as a consular officer, but most scrutinizing Western observers have concurred that his energies were directed towards recruiting spies and siphoning out information regarding West German high technology industries. Other media sources have conjectured that he commanded an investigative team with the East German Stasi police that investigated political crime within the GDR.
On the evening of December 5, 1989, a large crowd (speculated at 15,000 people) reportedly surrounded the Dresden Stasi prison. They then entered the facility overwhelming the outnumbered guards. The compound was located across the road from Putin’s KGB bureau. The event occurred one month following the fall of the Berlin Wall. That same evening, Putin elaborated that a faction of the crowd descended upon the KGB offices.
In “First Person”, Putin elaborated that he verbally confronted and defused the crowd’s hostile intentions by persuasion. Their intention was to ransacking the KGB compound. In a 2009 Russian television documentary, a modified version indicated that he brandished a pistol and threatened to shoot anyone trespassing into the facility.
The documentary account accentuated the menacing conditions and heightened Putin’s heroics. The size of crowd has never been determined. The incident was not published at the time either. Two cited crowd participants confirmed the story over twenty years later, but their credibility has never been publicly authenticated.
Russian media has integrated this encounter prominently into their character construction of Vladimir Putin. Did the incident actually occur? There are significant reasons for doubt.
Putin’s tenure in Dresden and intimate view of the GDR’s collapse has been acknowledged as an influential contributing factor to his hard-line and aggressive foreign policy. His conclusions regarding the momentum of change a unified crowd can provoke has prompted his own tight internal controls within Russia.
The 102-page book features over 100 photographs of the Dresden KGB bureau, Stasi prison facility including a decrepit Russian interrogation wing, the former nearby residence of the Putin family, and renovated core of Dresden’s center city.
Vickers addresses the background, evolution and reconstruction of Dresden since the Russian Cold War occupation between 1945-1989. The author visited Dresden during the summer of 1990 when the city’s once esteemed monuments and architecture languished in neglect and decay under the Soviet Occupation. The contemporary city center no longer resembles the wreckage that Putin once knew during his residence.
German reunification has completely upgraded and polished Dresden to aesthetic preeminence. The city was formerly known as the Florence on the River Elbe and the jewel of Prussian Empire aesthetics. Dresden stunning Baroque architecture has been rescued due to German taxation subsidies intended towards eastern rehabilitation.