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On 7th Anniversary of Fall, Berliners Want to See Wall Again

November 8, 1996

BERLIN (AP) _ Only a few pieces remain of the Berlin Wall. Most of the concrete that once snaked through the city has been replaced with reconnected streets and new construction.

Out of sight, out of mind? Many fear that’s already happening, and are lobbying for the city to make the 96-mile wall visible again as a reminder to future generations of a painful past.

``The wall is disappearing everywhere in the city,″ said Hermann Josef Pohlmann of Berlin’s office for building administration. ``It’s visible almost nowhere. Nobody knows anymore where it stood.″

Pohlmann is in charge of the ``Wall Museum″ project, which hopes to draw a line through the city to connect the existing sections of wall.

One proposal is to extend a copper band that traces 825 feet of the wall along a Berlin street. Estimated cost: $4.7 million.

Other proposals range from a modest red stripe for $27,000 to inlaid concrete for $6 million. The project also plans to mark the two ends of the wall with polished steel and to re-create a guard tower.

``It’s a way of dealing with a painful past _ creating a place for contemplation ... and along with that, show the people who come after what it was like,″ Pohlmann said.

Erected in 1961, the wall started to come down on Nov. 9, 1989. As the East German regime collapsed, the wall was disassembled.

Today, brightly painted segments stand in museums around the world. Other big chunks were given to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II for their gardens.

Individual segments sell now for $27,000, and the price is climbing, said Rainer Hildebrandt, head of the museum at the wall’s most famous crossing point, Checkpoint Charlie.

But most of the 117,000 tons of concrete that made up the wall were pulverized and dumped, or used as fill under the autobahn circling Berlin. A Berlin recycling company uses about 800 feet of the wall to hold back mounds of trash.

The longest remaining section, outside the city center, became known as the East Side Gallery after artists from around the world were invited to paint murals on it in 1990.

Another section not far from the Reichstag, once and future home of the German parliament, is to be transformed into an official memorial to people killed trying to cross the wall.

``We want to make the point that seven years after the wall fell, it’s almost impossible to understand where it ran,″ Hildebrandt told reporters Thursday outside the Checkpoint Charlie museum, where workers tacked to the street a white strip with the phrase ``Unity in Freedom″ in four languages.

In an editorial Friday, the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper said it was important to move the project forward.

``It is simply imperative that we at least show the places where streets were cut, families torn apart and workers separated from their jobs,″ the paper said. ``Tourists need it as an orientation aid. But above all, Berliners need this reminder because nothing has had so much influence on their past and present.″