Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Making a profit from a piece the past


[pict. REUTERS]

Berlin, Germany

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the desire to own a piece of the history in the form of a concrete reminder of the capital's divided past shows little sign of abating. Once a construction worker, Volker Pawlowski is feeding the desire from a small warehouse in Berlin. "To me, the Wall is a product like any other. It's business," Mr Pawlowski said, standing in the midst of thousands of small graffiti-sprayed pieces, arranged according to size.

"After the wall fell I saw that there was demand there, were selling a piece of history" explains Mr Pawlowski, whose company bought 150 complete segments and remains the world's biggest wholesaler supplying about 90 percent of Wall relics sold in Berlin's souvenir stores. Mr Pawlowski also provides man-high wall segments to companies or institutions. A 3.6 meter high section of wall costs around €4,000 (£3,500).

The heavily fortified 106-kilometre Wall, built in 1961 and encircling West Berlin, was breached on the night of November 9, 1989. Hundreds of so-called Mauerspechte (Wall-woodpeckers) chipped away at the colourful chunks on the Wall's western side. At least two-thirds of the wall was shredded and most of it was reused to pave roads.

"The Berlin Wall around the World", published this year, documents 120 segments of the wall in about 40 countries. They include a 2.6 tonne segment bought at auction in 1990 by an Italian businessman and donated to Pope John Paul II.

Welt Online

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