This object is a 12' high and 4' wide section of poured concrete wall, covered on one side with spray painted graffiti. It was originally part of the Berlin Wall located near Potsdammer Platz in central Berlin.
Following WWII, defeated Germany was divided into zones of control by the victorious Allies. Altough Berlin was deep inside the Soviet controlled eastern zone, half the city was controlled by the Western Democratic forces. For several years, East Germans used West Berlin as an access point to depart the Communist East, and travel to other countries, including the United States. In order to stop people fleeing, in 1961, the East German military government built a wall enclosing West Berlin. For 28 years (1961-1989) the Berlin Wall bisected the city, and being caught crossing it meant death.
After the wall came down in 1989, a New Jersey firm called the Berlin Wall Commemorative Group obtained licensing rights from the German government for brokering sections of the Wall to American buyers. Fred Meijer purchased this section of the wall from that organization and donated it to the Grand Rapids Public Museum in 1991. It went on display in 1994 when the new Van Andel Museum Center was opened.
1961 – 1989
Concrete, Spray Paint
144" h 48" w 8" d
Current Location Status:
Purchased With Funds From Frederik And Lena Meijer
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Frederik Meijer Fred Meijer was a pioneer of supercenter retailing and visionary philanthropist. He was a native of Greenville, MI, where his father, Hendrik, a Dutch immigrant barber, opened a grocery store in 1934. In 1946, he married Lena Rader, a cashier in that original store. They had three sons, Hank (Liesel) Meijer, Doug (Starr) Meijer and Mark (Mary Beth) Meijer; and seven grandchildren. Born December 7, 1919, Fred worked in the store from the start, helping his father build the tiny grocery into a chain of supermarkets. In 1962, under Fred's leadership, the chain opened its first "Thrifty Acres" store in Grand Rapids, a huge one-stop shopping discount emporium. As the company grew he was always an advocate of promoting people from within, an outspoken champion of civil rights, and a zealot for low prices. Fred was known for his competitive spirit and a keen sense of his own humble origins. In industry affairs, he was one of the longest serving directors of the Food Marketing Institute (formerly the Super Market Institute), and winner of its Sidney Raab award for outstanding service. In his adopted hometown of Grand Rapids he played a vital role in the early years of the local Urban League and Goodwill Industries, and helped lead downtown urban renewal efforts. In 1984 he worked with a group of civic leaders and friends of President Ford to build the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on the west bank of the Grand River. In those years he also served on the Cleveland District Board of the Federal Reserve. More recently, he was an active member of the Improvement Association. While the Meijer name became synonymous with many civic and charitable undertakings, Fred's most significant contribution lay with the creation in 1994 of the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. The conservatory and park reflect a blend of his passion for sculpture and Lena's for gardening. The collection of contemporary sculpture now ranks among the finest in the world, in a complex which has become one of the region's leading attractions. He served as chairman emeritus of the company until his death.
(Source: Fred Meijer Obituary, Mlive, Published by Grand Rapids Press from Nov. 27 to Nov. 28, 2011).