A substantial segment of the Berlin Wall that once divided the eastern and western portions of the German capital during the height of the Cold War was unveiled in Washington Thursday.
Workers hoisted the large concrete rectangle off a flat-bed truck at the State Department. It is being installed in the U.S. Diplomacy Center, a new museum under construction that will depict the story of American diplomacy with interactive exhibits, artifacts and simulations of world affairs through the years.
The Berlin Wall came to represent the split between the West and the Soviet Union with its satellite countries in Eastern Europe in the years after World War II. It stood ominously in the midst of divided Berlin where it extended 43 kilometers from 1961 to 1989, when it was knocked down and the two Germanys were reunited a year later.
At least 171 people were killed trying to escape over, under or around the wall trying to get from East Germany to the western sector of the city. Protesters with sledge hammers eventually knocked down much of the wall, scenes of which symbolized the quest for lasting freedom in Europe.
The segment unveiled in Washington, however, is no ordinary portion of the wall.
It is autographed by individuals who played key roles in ending the conflict over Berlin, including former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Polish President and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and former U.S. Secretary of States James Baker.
The State Department said the segment of the Berlin Wall in Washington would serve "as a permanent reminder of our shared history" with Europe and "the indispensable role of our transatlantic bond."