Berlin Wall's East Side Gallery wins protection from developers

After the wall fell in 1989, more than 100 international artists painted over its concrete transforming it into the world’s longest outdoor gallery.
Image: People sit along the Berlin wall at the East Side Gallery in Berlin, as the landmark television tower is seen in the background
Concerns about the future of the East Side Gallery triggered debate about how Berlin preserves its historic landmarks.Jorg Carstensen / AFP - Getty Images file

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By Carlo Angerer

MAINZ, Germany — The longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall has been saved from the threat of demolition.

The so-called East Side Gallery, a three-quarter of a mile stretch that is famous for its art works, was this week transferred into the care of a public foundation amid fears that it could be lost to property developers.

During the Cold War, it was part of the border separating East and West Germany.

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Ten people died while trying to flee the communist country in the section that was later turned into the East Side Gallery.

After the wall fell in 1989, more than 100 international artists painted over its concrete transforming it into the world’s longest outdoor gallery. It has become a symbol for the joy of reunification, but also reminds visitors that Berlin was once a divided city.

A mural by Russian painter Dmitri Vrubel depicting a kiss between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker at the East Side Gallery.Felipe Trueba / EPA file

While the East Side Gallery has become one of the most visited landmarks in the city, its future was uncertain due to Berlin's construction boom.

In 2013, sections of the wall were removed to make way for an access road to new luxury apartments.

The Berlin Wall Foundation, which already runs other memorials and museums in the city, has now taken control of the East Side Gallery.

It plans to preserve the artwork and run guided tours, while also keeping the area easily accessible.

“We are happy that our foundation is trusted with the preservation and care of this monument,” said Hannah Berger, a spokeswoman for the organization. “It’s also important that we can now explain this place.”

Berger said the foundation aims to preserve the East Side Gallery's character and plans to conduct archaeological research that aims to uncover the foundations of a guard tower that once stood nearby.