Green grass. Benches. Unique art display. Students passing by. Tours being given. Chatter about the day. Plans being made. Homework being done. Sun shining. Parrots squawking. Peaceful air about the plaza. All of these things could be found nearly anywhere on campus. But this is not anywhere. This is at Liberty Plaza, between Memorial lawn and Beckman hall, a place we all pass every single day. It may mean nothing to you here in Liberty Plaza but to so many in Berlin it was a constant reminder of the war around them.
Photo by Sarah Walling
This piece of the Berlin wall was brought to Chapman in 1998 after the hard work President Doti put in to bring it to us. It took him two years to finally see the Berlin wall on his campus, on our campus. He literally moved walls to bring us this cultural structure to remind us every day where it has been and what the past was like. Since the day it was put up on our campus we have forever been changed. We have since been made aware and realized how big the wall was and the impact it has made and makes continuously to this day.
Where the Berlin Wall is today there once was nothing. As you walked to class it was empty. Liberty Plaza has become a placeholder for history. Before we walked by thinking about the future, what we would do later that day, that week, that month. Now we walk by and think of the past. Think of what this piece of history meant to so many people. We never knew the power of being able to walk around something until the wall arrived. While the wall remained intact there was no way to walk around, you couldn’t take another path or move around it, the wall was immovable. Before the Berlin wall arrived on campus it stood as a barrier to East and West Berlin, a reminder to the people each day that they were separate and consequences would be immediate if they tried to escape to the other side. This wall tore friends, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, grandparents and grandchildren apart. The wall gave no mercy. The wall gave no freedom. The wall gave only the reminder of war.
The Berlin wall was erected in 1961 and remained intact until 1989 when it was finally brought down and pieces were distributed around the world. Chapman University is one of twenty five college campuses in the US to receive a piece of the wall. It has special meaning here at Chapman because of the immense amount of Holocaust memorabilia and the Holocaust remembrance museum atop the Leatherby Libraries.
Returning to a place to write is important in order to see what has changed and what still remains the same. As Lity Munshi said, “returned home, an opportunity to use experiences gathered from out”, meaning that to really be able to understand something you must first leave it and then come back with new knowledge to bestow upon the old place.