Father of Berlin Wall reconciliation dies
Hannah Cleaver · 10 Dec 2013, 06:51
Published: 10 Dec 2013 06:51 GMT+01:00
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Manfred Fischer was the pastor of the Reconciliation Church which was famously blown up by East German authorities to make way for the death strip behind the Wall where anyone trying to approach it from the East would be shot.
He led efforts to honour the name of his church while the Wall still stood, and oversaw the creation of a chapel on the site afterwards to remember whose who died on the border.
The 65-year-old was awarded the Federal Order of Merit for his work when he retired this spring.
He had been pastor of the Wedding reconciliation parish since 1977 - a district that was cut off from its actual church when the Wall was built in 1961, the Tagesspiegel newspaper reported.
He and many parishioners watched in 1985 as East German troops blew up the church in order to make way for the death strip behind the actual wall.
Photographs and video of the spire leaning over and falling as the church was blown up have become well known, but retain their power to shock.
After the Wall fell in 1989 and East and West Germany were reunited the year after, Fischer oversaw the work to create the Chapel of Reconciliation, built on the foundations of the original church.
It formed the centre of and the spur for what has become Germany's most important memorial to those whose lives were lost or ruined by the Wall. The chapel, a remarkable round design made of compressed loam, surrounded by a protective yet open wooden structure, is frequently the site of memorial services for those who died.
A section of the original Wall still stands there on Bernauer Strasse, as well as a reconstructed stretch which has the death strip marked out.
A documentation centre and a visitor centre have also been built, and, further up the hill, marks in the ground with dates show where people built escape tunnels to try to get from East to West.
The memorial is now a huge international attraction, ensuring that although the Wall has disappeared from much of the rest of Berlin, it will not be forgotten.
"Only a few fought for the commemoration of the Wall with as much commitment as he did," Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit told the paper.
"After the fall of the Wall he did everything to try to keep alive memories of the time of division."
Fischer died after several heart operations. His family told the congregation over the weekend that he had died on Friday, the Tagesspiegel said.