These displays are so powerful, it is frustrating that the Mauermuseum eventually dissolves into platitudes about “universal peace” with cursory celebrations of the world’s human-rights activists and heroeswrites Edward Rothstein in a NYT article with surprising common sense (then again, it is two decades since the wall — and the Soviet Empire — fell, and liberal outlets are always ready to condemn leftist dictatorships of the past — especially if they can add themselves amongst the strongmen's most dedicated foes).
This will be the great temptation of the coming Wall events: to turn the Wall into a generalized symbol, harnessed to score a wide variety of political points. Next month, for example, David Hare’s double bill “Berlin/Wall” will open at the Public Theater in New York, a pairing of a meditation about Berlin and its Wall with a monologue about the wall Israel has been erecting separating itself from West Bank Palestinians. The pairing, which Mr. Hare has said “seemed a cute idea,” creates an association of condemnation, suggesting a resemblance of oppression, even though one wall was meant to keep a country’s citizens in and the other is meant to keep a country’s attackers out.
If the anniversary of the Wall’s fall becomes such an all-purpose symbol, its significance will be missed. Look to the particulars instead, to the way it divided this once great and terrible city, to the way in which it demanded obeisance in the name of virtue, and to the way, finally, though saturated with terror and blood, it fell to forces both more subtle and more powerful. And the greatest triumph over the Wall? It is now just a souvenir.