The chapel echoes the name of the detonated Church of Reconciliation, connecting it with the mandate for reconciliation associated with this memorial place in the former ‘death strip’ by the Berlin Wall.
On 13 August 1961, the GDR government began building the Berlin Wall. Over the course of the following years, a complex system of border security would be expanded to hinder migration to West Germany. At least one hundred and thirty-six people died at the Berlin Wall up to 1989, ninety of whom were shot at the border.
The Berlin Wall Memorial, with its ensemble of buildings and 1.3-kilometre strip of wall, documents the fate of residents of Bernauer Strasse, which marked the boundary between East and West. It shows examples of the results of building the Wall: families and friends cut off from one another, life plans abandoned, the cityscape dissected. In the initial few days following the building of the Wall, many East Berliners fled via houses in Bernauer Strasse that fronted directly on to the borderline.
One of the focal places of reflection on German partition and its peaceful outcome
The old ‘Versoehnungskirche’ (Church of Reconciliation) stood directly on top of the border strip and was unreachable for the community. In 1985 the GDR government blew it up. The new Chapel of Reconciliation (Kapelle der Versöhnung) was inaugurated in the year 2000, on the foundations of the old church, as a place of reflection and prayer. The rye field beside the chapel represents the cycle of sowing, growing and death. It is a symbol of the return of life to the former ‘death strip’ and of the transformation of this place.
The memorial features a wide-ranging permanent exhibition of the history of the Berlin Wall. It comprises the Visitors’ Centre, the Documentation Centre, the Chapel of Forgiveness, a section of the former border zone, and several memorial sculptures. The memorial also organises events and training courses and carries out research projects on the inner-German partition.
Visitors will find here a place to commemorate the peaceful outcome of division. The memorial centre allows room to reflect on borders and overcoming division, past and present. It is also a place which invites reflection on forms of peaceful protest and the possibilities of change in our society.
Food for thought: Which visible or invisible boundaries divide people in Berlin, or in your city, today?