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

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A replica of the Berlin Wall, built by students at Westminster College. - ROB CROUSE
  • Rob Crouse
  • A replica of the Berlin Wall, built by students at Westminster College.
Foreground: original Berlin Wall. Background: Berlin Wall of Westminster. - ROB CROUSE
  • Rob Crouse
  • Foreground: original Berlin Wall. Background: Berlin Wall of Westminster.
The two Berlin Walls, side by side. In the background, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, designed by Christopher Wren in the 17th century and transported stone by stone from London to Missouri. - ROB CROUSE
  • Rob Crouse
  • The two Berlin Walls, side by side. In the background, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, designed by Christopher Wren in the 17th century and transported stone by stone from London to Missouri.
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.

Foreground: original Berlin Wall. Background: Berlin Wall of Westminster. - ROB CROUSE
  • 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."
Tonight when the students push down their wall, they will reveal not West Berlin, but a sculpture called "Breakthrough" created by Churchill's granddaughter Edwina Sandys from pieces of the original wall.

The ceremony will be open to the public. Mohr and his fellow wall-organizer Chris Arnold expect a crowd of several hundred people. Afterward, says Arnold, the students will return the wood to the carpenter who helped them build the wall, but they hope to keep the painted plaster and put it on display.

"It's great to teach people about the Berlin Wall and the Cold War," says Mohr, who is also an intern in the archives of the college's Winston Churchill Memorial and Library. "I was one year old when the wall came down, and I'm a senior. Most people here weren't even born yet. It's great for a generation that doesn't remember the Cold War at all."

The two Berlin Walls, side by side. In the background, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, designed by Christopher Wren in the 17th century and transported stone by stone from London to Missouri. - ROB CROUSE
  • Rob Crouse
  • The two Berlin Walls, side by side. In the background, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, designed by Christopher Wren in the 17th century and transported stone by stone from London to Missouri.

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