In the Trash – Berlin Wall Sections Found in German Landfill

Berlin Wall With Graffiti. Noir / / CC BY-SA 3.0
Berlin Wall With Graffiti. Noir / / CC BY-SA 3.0

When the Berlin Wall came down, some sections were left standing to commemorate the German nation’s 44-year long division that followed WWII.

A reporter was surprised recently to find that some of the Wall is in a landfill in Berlin. The landfill is owned by Alba, one of the biggest waste sorting and recycling companies in Germany. The Wall sections were used to keep different types of waste separate.

Gerhard Sälter, the historian for the Berlin Wall Memorial, was unaware that part of the Wall was being used this way. When he examined the concrete dividers, he confirmed that most of the more than 300 sections were from the Berlin Wall. He was able to make this judgment based on the height of the sections (almost 12 feet tall) and the decay along the top edges where the round asbestos liners were held.

Other sections of concrete in use at the landfill were not from the Berlin Wall. Those sections had been used in agriculture to store crops in different sections, similar to how they were being used in the landfill.

Uwe Küber, the managing director at Alba, explained how the Wall sections came to be in the landfill. Alba was commissioned, along with other companies, to remove the Berlin Wall.

Other companies shredded the Wall sections to use for construction material. Alba left them intact to use as dividers.

The facility is considered one of the most modern in Germany. It handles trash created by seven million people in Berlin and its suburbs and processes over 140,000 tons of recyclable material every year.

Sälter wasn’t surprised to find part of the Wall in a landfill. In 1990, when it was taken down, the Wall had no value to the people. “East and West Berliners, from politicians to ordinary citizens, all agreed on one aspect – they wanted to get rid of the Wall. So I’m not surprised at all that it ended up at places like this landfill,” Sälter explained.

The Wall became obsolete on November 9, 1989, when the East German government opened the borders. Some sections were knocked down by the crowds of tens of thousands of people celebrating. On December 29, 1989, the East German government, led by Hans Modrow, made the official decision to knock the entire wall down.

On November 10, 1989, former Chancellor Willy Brandt was one of the few to call for the historical preservation of sections of the Wall. Many people see the remnants of the Wall as a commemoration of the Cold War and symbolic of the freedom won by the Germans who fought to bring it down.

Sälter isn’t bothered by finding parts of the Wall in use as landfill. He feels that treating the Wall as sacred would give too much credit to the East German government. “I do not find this disrespectful at all. Many Germans believed this is where the Wall belonged even before 1989,” said Sälter. “That’s why I think it’s very appropriate to have the Wall in the trash.”

Küber says that Alba does not plan to get rid of the sections anytime soon. He is aware that portions of the Wall are selling for over 100,000 euros (over $11,000). “We will keep using the parts of the Wall and wait for a while until they become even more valuable,” he said. “Then, when the right time comes, we’ll sell them for a good price.”


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE