“Monuments are nothing if selective aids to memory: they encourage us to remember some things and to forget others. The process of creating monuments, especially where it is openly contested, as in Berlin, shapes public memory and collective identity”
In the first chapter of his book, “The Ghosts of Berlin,” Brian Ladd attempts to unearth and highlight the complexities of the Berlin Wall. The Wall, while a physical object, is also a symbol. Cold War Berlin was a divided city, and the Wall came to represent this division. I thought it was interesting how the Wall was more than just a physical barrier—rather it “signified a set of activities—searches, patrols, observation, and identification checks at the crossing points—that protected the border.” I have never thought of monuments to be deeply symbolic. But in reality, what Ladd highlights makes sense—a monument in itself chooses to highlight an important part of a people or city (in the case of Berlin), resulting in the potential to alter collective identity.
Despite this monument being in theory unchanging, it is a dynamic symbol. Traditionally I do not view monuments as changing in meaning; I always believed they represented a specific point in time to be remembered or a way to encapsulate a notion or way of thinking. However, the stages of the Berlin Wall’s existence actually signified different stages in German identity. For example, its creation represented the growing divide between Germany and the rest of Europe at the rise of the Cold War and globalization, yet its destruction highlighted the desire for Germans to forget about the aforementioned “activities” (and leaders) that the Wall originally represented. However, its preservation suggests that collectively Germans also want it to serve as a “solemn reminder” of past wrong doings. Ladd writes that some urged for the preservation of the wall in order to “’admonish that people may never again be arbitrarily divided’”. The history of the monument itself serves to highlight the history of German identity.
The second assigned reading of this reflection was the first chapter of Matt Sparkes’ “Introducing Globalization”, which provided a helpful background on the rise of globalization and the role in its conflict that resulted in monuments such as the Berlin Wall.