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Since the beginning of its construction on 13 August 1961 and until its 'fall' on 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall had divided the German capital of Berlin into East and West. Policy restrictions put into place by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) limited movement and curtained emigration or visits, meaning that many families were separated and workers from the East could no longer be employed in the West. Despite the erection of this concrete barrier, known in German as the 'Berliner Mauer', with its nine 'checkpoints' and strategically placed guard towers, more than 5,000 people successfully defected to West Berlin but at a cost of an estimated 200 deaths with hundreds more captured and imprisoned. The most infamous checkpoint was restricted to Allied personnel and foreigners traffic, and was known as 'Checkpoint Charlie'. Although protests and demonstrations had been unremitting since the border closure, one of the most notable moments was that of U.S. President Ronald Reagan's speech at the Brandenburg Gate commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin on 12 June 1987, when he challenged General Secretary Gorbachev to "come here to this gate… open this gate… tear down this wall!" The fall of the Wall came about after the resignation of Erich Honecker, long-time leader of East Germany, in October 1989 and an announcement made on 9 November of that same year by the new government concerning relaxing travel regulations that allowed refugees to exit directly through crossing points between East Germany and West Germany, effective that day. The public's reaction was immediate with East Germans gathering at the checkpoints in Berlin demanding the border guards to open the gates and causing citizens to start chipping away, demolishing and dismantling the Wall. Within a year, the communist dictatorship collapsed in East Germany and reunification of the German state formally concluded on 3 October 1990.
During that crucial moment in history, thousands of people danced and celebrated on top of the Berlin Wall - a symbol of Germany’s divided past and the freedom and democracy that followed. While people in Berlin began to demolish the Wall very rapidly, there was also much interest from abroad to obtain pieces of the 140-kilometre-long wall, the last piece of which was torn down in November 1991. Within a period of 15 years, there were very few traces left of the Wall within the cityscape as countless pieces were scattered around the globe with many being given to various cultural and historical institutions, organizations, businesses, cities and governments. For the recipients, the large Wall segments and smaller fragments were considered memorials to be preserved and displayed in public places so that the story behind 'their' piece could be told. It is known that there are more than 240 sections of the Wall that can be found in over 140 countries around the world, including six sites within Canada. A section is on permanent display in the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa (Ontario), another was given to the city of Montréal (Québec) on the occasion of its 350th anniversary and is located at le Centre de Commerce Mondial; and, a third is located on the grounds of the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, Manitoba. The other three Canadian pieces are set within the province of Nova Scotia, including: small pieces are encased at the World Peace Pavilion in Dartmouth; six large segments owned by the town of Truro - currently displayed at Dalhousie's Agricultural Campus in Bible Hill; and, as shown in the photograph, there is a four feet by nearly 12 feet wall section that is standing at the old Lunenburg foundry since the late 1990s. The Honourable J. James Kinley - a lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia from 1994 to 2000 and former longtime engineering executive who worked at the Lunenburg Industrial Foundry & Engineering Limited - was instrumental in bringing this section of the Wall to his hometown. Kinley was also a veteran as he had served in Canada's Merchant Navy during the Second World War and continued onward with the Naval Reserve until his retirement in 1958. After the town of Lunenburg received a UNESCO World Heritage designation in 1995, Kinley convinced a German businessman to donate this piece of the Wall to continue its deep-rooted ties with Germany as 1,400 German immigrants established the community of Lunenburg in 1753.
On this day, 9 November 2021, we commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and remember all those who died or suffered during their struggle against East Germany's oppression and dictatorship.
André M. Levesque