How Berlin is marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Wall

This November marks three decades since the Peaceful Revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall. From art installations to dance parties, this is what's planned.

How Berlin is marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Wall
The artwork at Brandenburg Gate features 30,000 messages. Photo: Kulturprojecte Berlin/Thomas Meyer

A seven-day city-wide festival is taking place to mark the historic event, which took place on November 9th 1989.

From November 4th-10th, the story of how the Wall came down will be told at sites across the city.

Seven open-air exhibitions will be set up at locations that played a role in the era of upheaval in 1989/1990, including at the Gethsemane Church, Alexanderplatz, Schlossplatz, Brandenburg Gate, Kurfürstendamm, East Side Gallery and the former Stasi headquarters in Lichtenberg.

READ ALSO: November 9th: The day German history keeps being made

These presentations, which will consist of historical images and films accompanied by sound installations, will create the backdrop for a multifaceted exhibition and event programme – organized in cooperation with museums, memorial sites, associations, educational institutions and artists groups.

“Discover, experience, join in, and celebrate: The festival week welcomes visitors with a diverse program of over 200 events across all seven locations and seven days,” a Kulturprojekte spokeswoman told The Local.

“This extensive program includes punk concerts and film screenings, exhibitions and panel discussions, readings and poetry slams, sing-alongs and much, much more.”

What's happening – and where?

– A large-scale art installation by American artist Patrick Shearn at the Brandenburg Gate showcases 30,000 messages of peace from residents in Germany floating above the Straße des 17. Juni from November 4th under the title: “Visions in Motion”.

READ ALSO: 'Spirit of optimism is gone': Sombre mood as Germany marks 30 years of Berlin Wall fall

– At Alexanderplatz, visitors will be able to see how hundreds of thousands of demonstrators stood up against the SED (East German) regime on November 4th 1989 thanks to 3D video projections.

– On the building facades of the former Stasi headquarters, visitors will be able to see the demands for the abolishment of the secret police.

– An exhibition in and around the Gethsemane Church on Stargarder Straße in Prenzlauer Berg will show the building's role in the revolution with text panels and images – as well as with an interview project accessible via audio, in which former civil rights activists such as Evelyn Zupke, Ulrike Poppe, Frank Ebert, and the former parish priest Bernd Albani will have their say.

– Stories from Berliners who were separated from each other because of the Wall will be told at Kurfürstendamm.

– At Schlossplatz, in central Berlin, the focus will be on the first free elections.

– And at the East Side Gallery, the exhibition theme will be the artistic takeover of the Wall.

In all of these events, the stories of “Zeitzugen” (contemporary witnesses) will be present for people to explore.

“Open-air exhibitions at each of the seven locations explore the historical backgrounds of the events of 1989/90 through texts and images,” said a spokeswoman.

“The recollections of contemporary witnesses bring the events of 30 years ago to life: Their stories were collected and curated in an extensive interview project, and are featured in the exhibitions in the form of quotes and listening stations.”

READ ALSO: How and why was the Berlin Wall built?

Berliners celebrate on top of the wall on November 9th. Photo: DPA

– The highlight of the week-long celebrations will be a city-wide music festival held on the evening of November 9th, the date the Wall fell.

A number of stages will feature renowned national and international artists whose sounds and stories are connected to the events of 1989/90 or whose work stands for freedom and the breaking down of walls.

At Brandenburg Gate, the German orchestera Staatskapelle, led by Daniel Barenboim, will open the programme before DJ WestBam transforms the historic site into a “European Club Night,” which will also be celebrated in 27 clubs throughout Berlin.

The 3D videos at Alexanderplatz. Photo: Kulturprojecte

What else do you need to know?

The festivities in Berlin are estimated to cost €10 million.

The aim is to commemorate the victims of the dictatorship. It also allows people to experience the historic events of the Peaceful Revolution, and understand this huge part of German history in more detail.

In total there will be more than 100 events, including panel discussions, concerts, guided tours, workshops, film series, readings, poetry slams and theatre productions.

They will tell the story of how the revolution took hold in Central and Eastern Europe, making its way through the wave of successful escape attempts starting in summer 1989, GDR-wide protests and demonstrations, the fall of the Wall in autumn of that year, the storming of the Stasi headquarters and the first free elections in the GDR held in March 1990.

But the 30 year anniversary also means that a whole generation has grown up in Berlin without ever knowing the Wall. The free-of-charge app “MauAR” has been developed for them and others interested in finding out more about how it would have felt in the divided city.

READ ALSO: Interior Ministry begs for more cash after 'forgetting' landmark reunification celebration

On the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, smartphone and tablet users will be able to virtually explore the Berlin Wall with an app. Photo: Brooks Kraft/Apple/dpa

With the help of augmented reality technology, it will be possible to view the Wall at its locations as a three-dimensional animation on a mobile phone or tablet.

READ ALSO: Talkin' bout my generation: What unity means to eastern Germans

Who's in charge of the events?

The whole project is being carried out by Kulturprojekte Berlin on behalf of the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe and in cooperation with the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial), Berlin’s Commissioner for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship, the Robert Havemann Society and other partners.

The full program can be find on the website:

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.