November 1989 marked the official fall of the infamous Berlin Wall, a Cold War icon that divided countries, political ideologies and family members. Recognizing the 24th anniversary of that historic event, Mountain View made history of its own Thursday when city officials and a prominent German family officially dedicated two segments of the wall in front of the city’s library.
San Francisco German Consul General Peter Rothen also was on hand to show his country’s appreciation of the city’s efforts to preserve and install the two 12-foot-high, multi-ton concrete slabs as historic monuments.
“This is a joyful occasion,” said Rothen, who referred to the wall remnants as “beautiful pieces that are now artwork.”
The two segments, adjacent to the front entrance of the library at 585 Franklin St., are encased in glass and stand adjacent to one another.
“These pieces should be seen by as many people as possible,” Rothen said, noting that the wall as a whole was a symbol of oppression but these dedicated pieces are now “symbols of freedom and democracy, and German-American friendships.”
Erected in 1961, the Berlin Wall separated East and West Germany. It ran for 96 miles and denied passage between the two sides. The fall of communism and the Soviet Union led to a prophecy fulfilled when then-President Ronald Reagan said to former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Shortly after the wall fell, Mountain View residents Frank R. Golzen and Kunigunda Golzen had two segments transported to property they owned on Marine Way. The segments stood on display on the Golzens’ land for more than 20 years until Frank passed away in 2008. Frank felt that the segments symbolized American resolve and freedom.
“Dad felt bringing a section of the Berlin Wall to the United States was a unique opportunity,” said daughter Renee Roberts, representing Golzen family members in attendance.
Roberts said her parents were born and raised in Germany but moved to America prior to World War II for a better way of life. The Golzens operated a successful Mountain View business for several decades.
Family members sold the Marine Way property last year. Concurrent with the sale, the family approached the city about the Berlin Wall sections. The city council accepted the segments Sept. 18, 2012, as a donation from the family.
The Visual Arts Committee, councilmembers and city staff selected the location in front of the library.
Both wall segments are littered with graffiti, drawn on the West German side.
One section shows an Elvis caricature, and scrawled on the other section is “Wir Lieben Dich,” which means “We Love You.”
Rothen said approximately 50 such Berlin Wall segments are now in the U.S., eight in California. Only two pairs are located in Northern California – the other pair is in Monterey.
In addition to introductory comments by Mayor John Inks, last week’s ceremony featured a performance by the string orchestra section of the Mountain View-based German International School of Silicon Valley.