Historical Witness - Alwin Nachtweh

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Previously trained as a tailor, Alwin Nachtweh had his share of Cold War adventures in the shadow of the Berlin Wall long before it figuratively ‘tumbled down’ at the end of 1989. This stunning world event, however, is what brought him quick celebrity and expertise, making him into a successful entrepreneur while he began literally quarrying the Wall into colorful pieces. Through his many contacts and by being on the scene in those immediate post-Wende weeks and months, Alwin with his sharp eye for history also guided many border signs and other memorabilia into his ‘basement’ and ultimately into The Wende Museum.

Alwin Nachtweh owes his midlife celebrity to the fall of the Berlin Wall. For him and others who picked up chisel and mallet at that critical moment, the market for literally “owning a piece of history” suddenly beckoned along with a lively business in selling souvenirs at Checkpoint Charlie and adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate. In an interview conducted in 2006 at the breakfast table in his flat in Berlin-Neukölln, Alwin reminisces about his ins and outs with East Bloc authorities, an adventure gone wrong at the Bulgarian border, and his role as Berlin’s foremost “Mauerspecht” or “wall-pecker”, which not incidentally led to some of the finer exhibition pieces at The Wende Museum.

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