History Comes to Life

KENNESAW, Ga. | Nov 7, 2019

Kennesaw State Commemorates the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

In front of the Kennesaw State Social Sciences building looms a striking piece of history – a section of the Berlin Wall.

Donated to the University by Georgia Senator Charles “Chuck” Clay, the piece stands 12-feet tall and weighs over 2 tons. It was the focal point of a special event hosted by the School of Government and International Affairs; Department of Museums, Archives and Rare Books and the Department of Foreign Languages commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

During the event, several speakers discussed the history and impact of the wall, sharing personal anecdotes about Germany before and after the fall. Speakers included Clay; Mason Kane, KSU international affairs and German student; Heike Fuller, the German consul general for Atlanta; Major William Carraway, Georgia Army National Guard; and KSU President Pamela Whitten. In addition, students were invited to paint on an interactive graffiti wall created by the College of Art and Design. The ceremony ended with the speakers placing a wreath at the bottom of the Berlin Wall to honor victims and the division caused by the Berlin Wall before its fall.

“The visceral, physical presence of the wall really helps to demonstrate the imposing presence it had in Berlin,” said Catherine Lewis, assistant vice president for Museums, Archives & Rare Books. 

Originally built in 1961 to separate West Berlin and East Germany, the wall stood until 1989. Nearly 5,000 people were able to scale or surpass the wall and escape into West Berlin, but the number of those who died attempting to cross is unknown.

Piece of the Berlin Wall at KSU
The wall represents an emotional connection to Clay’s family history. His grandfather, Lucius Clay, served as a top military advisor in Berlin, working to maintain regional stability during the 10,316 days the wall remained in place, separating East and West Berlin.

The section of the wall was given to Chuck Clay as a gesture of good will and gratitude for his grandfather’s service to Berlin and the region. When it arrived back to Atlanta, Clay took some time to decide on a location. He landed on Kennesaw State University because of the Museum of History and Holocaust Education.

“This wall gives us all a piece of history you can put your hand on. Something you can see and understand,” Clay said. “A little piece of Georgia will always be in Berlin because of my grandfather, and a piece of Berlin will be right here, too.”

Kerwin Swint, director of the School of Government and International Affairs, shared his gratitude for such an important part of the past to be available to students.

“We are so appreciative to Senator Clay for bringing this piece of history to KSU,” Swint said. “Our students are now able to walk around and interact with an incredibly important part of global history,”

A KSU student paints a replica piece of the Berlin Wall
Kennesaw State President Pamela Whitten lived in Germany just prior to and immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall. She said that visiting East Berlin from West Berlin, before the wall came down, was like stepping into a different country, one that seemed to have been left unattended. But it was how the country rallied together following the fall that she remembers fondly.

“Despite the long division of their country, when the wall came down, West Berlin embraced and supported East Berlin as they reunited. The two Berlins came together as one and today is a unified country,” Whitten said.

—Andrea Judy

Photography by Jason Getz

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.