"We spent our entire childhoods in the service of our country, and no one even knew we were there." - Pat Conroy
25th Anniversary of the BERLIN Wall
November 9, 2014 was the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall. We, the Alumni Association, held our Reunion in BERLIN to participate in this milestone celebration. (November 8-11, 2014)
How the BERLIN Brats acquired a piece of the BERLIN Wall
20th Anniversary of the BERLIN Wall
8 November 2009
Click here to watch the GMA segment on our piece of the BERLIN wall. Watch for our very own Deborah (Brians) Clark '74.
Glenn Harrison FAC '71-'72 in The Wichita Eagle.
John Freeman '71 in The Gainsville Sun.
The Berlin Brats' piece of the wall on KSN3 News.
Museum of World Treasures Press Release.
Our BERLIN Wall in print
27 January 2006
In "Village Tours & Travel's Vol. 26, No. 1 Spring - Summer 2006" guide of travel and tour options, a visit to Wichita's Museum of World Treasures is included for those boarding from Oklahoma City for tours headed through Wichita. In the description of the museum, our section of the BERLIN Wall is mentioned.
Papers on our BERLIN Wall
Click here for a .pdf of the "Thank You" letter from AOSHS.
Click here for a .pdf of the Fall 2005 AOSHS Quarterly article.
Click here for a .pdf of the December 2005 OSB Newsletter article.
BERLIN Brats Alumni Association buy a section of the BERLIN Wall
The BERLIN Brats are pleased to announce the acquisition of a section of the BERLIN Wall... and not just some piece of concrete that was scrounged from some construction site, slapped with a little paint, and sold for 10 Euros by a shady Romanian street vendor in BERLIN; but an honest-to-goodness real-life section of the Wall itself!
How this came to pass is a tale of intrigue that crosses borders, nationalities, and history. Or so we like to think.
Everyone is (or should be) familiar with eBay, the online auction site where you can buy anything from jewelry to grilled cheese sandwiches bearing the image of the Virgin Mary. Not too long ago, an entire section of the BERLIN Wall went up for auction on eBay, complete with photographs that appeared to be authentic. This was brought to the attention of Jeri (Polansky) Glass '72, the director of the BERLIN Brats, by the President of the Stuttgart Alumni Association, Patricia Hein. Jeri thought this might be something that the 'Brats' would want to acquire, and threw the idea out to the Class Contacts. After some lively discussion via email, the consensus was, should the artifact prove to be authentic, purchasing the relic would be a good use of BERLIN Brats funds. Further, everyone agreed we should donate it to the American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS) Archives & Museum, currently securing funds for construction in Wichita, Kansas.
A crack team of Historical Artifact Research, Acquisition and Study Specialists (HARASS) was assembled, led by the dashingly handsome Rob Ahrens '87. The plan had a two pronged approach: First, verify the authenticity of the section, and second, work with the seller on buying the piece and transferring it to 'Brat' control.
Carl Marvin '87 was tapped to handle the eBay portion of the transaction, to include contacting the seller. Carl seemed appropriate because of his history of significant sales and purchases on eBay, and he looks really cool driving around in his armored Hummer. Carl contacted the seller, and got the story of this section of BERLIN Wall.
Tom, the gentleman selling the piece, owned a health club in the Washington D.C. area in the early '90's. As many of us know, D.C. is a schmoozing, networking kind of town, and through his club, the Tom met many interesting characters. Among his clientele was a Russian Importer/ Exporter (cue spy music now). A friendship developed between the two. Somehow, the Russian (let's call him Vladimir) managed to get his hands on 4 whole sections of the Wall. How he did this is anyone's guess. For reasons unclear, Vladimir offered Tom one of the slabs, and Tom accepted.
Vladimir had the artifacts shipped over with other items he was importing... we're not sure if those other items were vodka, stacking dolls, brides, or a combination of all three. Two of the four pieces were unfortunately destroyed in shipment, Vladimir kept one, and the fourth went to Tom. (A note that lends credibility to the story: due to high asbestos content of the concrete, Customs would not release the sections until they were sprayed with a concrete sealant, an issue that has been independently verified). Upon receipt of his section, Tom immediately put it in a public storage facility in Rockville, Maryland. Documentation provided by Tom has verified the date of the relic's arrival at the storage center.
Fast forward to present day. Tom has retired to the Pacific Northwest, and rather than continuing to incur the ongoing cost of storage, decides he would rather sell his part of the Wall than keep it. From what he says, it was a purely financial decision. So he puts it on eBay.
Tom's background story seemed reasonable, the anecdotal evidence is supported by known facts, and documentation was provided backing up the dates of storage. But we needed more.
Enter Major Chris Erickson, Assistant Air Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in BERLIN, and BAHS alumnus, class of '87. Chris became a key member of the HARASS team, our eyes and ears on the ground in BERLIN. To understand the official disposition of sections of the Wall, and verify Tom's story, Chris contacted several organizations specializing in the BERLIN Wall: the BERLIN Wall Documentation Centre, the City of BERLIN Construction Office, and the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum.
DISCLAIMER: Chris in no way pursued his research on U.S. government time, or presented himself as an embassy or military employee, in case any 'official' types read this. (Chris, please continue with your career.)
Chris discovered that no official records exist on the disposition of the Wall, although some were given as gifts by the BERLIN and German governments, and some were sold. So there would be no paper trail. The suggestion was made that careful visual inspection of the artifact would verify the authenticity. Additionally, the asbestos-ridden concrete was a very specific type, and could be tested, although no one had heard of this ever being done.
Katrin (Lindroth) Planz, BAHS alumna, class of '71, also residing in Germany, showed the picture of the section to the curator of the Allierten Museum in BERLIN, located at the former Outpost Theater and Nicholson Library. Based on the photograph, the curator said the item shown was consistent with known sections of the Wall, some of which are on display at his museum.
It then fell to the team to view the Wall slab in person. Paul Markey '77, Pam (Thurston) Moratzka '79 and Kristy O'Hearne '86, all of the D.C. area, each went independently to Rockville to see it for themselves. All three agreed the section at the storage facility was indeed the item shown on eBay. All three further believed the item was an authentic section of the BERLIN Wall for many reasons, among them the graffiti on one side (presumable the West side) and not the other, the holes drilled at the time of the Wall's fall to facilitate removal by crane (all existing sections of the Wall have this), and the rebar that is exposed. Kristy took pictures (as shown in this article) for review by others, and went immediately from Rockville to the Freedom Park in Arlington, Virginia, whose collection includes the largest group of Wall sections in the United States, for a visual comparison. There was a match.
Based on this research, and the consensus among Class Contacts that a purchase would be a good use of 'Brat' funds pending authentication, Carl entered into negotiations with Tom.
Ultimately the auction closed on eBay without a bid, and we made an offer outside of eBay. Tom accepted the offer of $5,000 despite having received a larger one and one closer to his posted reserve; he was impressed by our handling of the situation and our professionalism in the matter.
Since then, payment has been made, and ownership has transferred to the BERLIN Brats (including taking over the storage contract). Plans are currently being made to transport the relic to Wichita, an effort being assisted by Stuttgart alumnus Jim Kloke, Principal of Transition Management Systems in Potomac, MD.
AOSHS is very excited to be receiving this Wall slab, and the City of Wichita is likewise looking forward to its arrival. As a matter of fact, there is some debate among local facilities and government as to where the section will be located during AOSHS' construction period. When that decision is made, we of course will let you know, so you can visit 'the section' the next time you are in Wichita.
Above all, of course, the BERLIN Brats are very pleased to be able to share this piece of modern history with others, an artifact that is unique to the BERLIN experience, and thus, all former BAHS students' lives. There aren't a lot of large pieces of the Wall in the U.S.; our own section of the Wall will join the handful of others located in such dignified locations as CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, and a casino bathroom in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Special thanks to Jeri, all the Class Contacts, the members of the fictional HARASS team, and of course, everyone's places of employment, most of whom unknowingly donated time to this effort.
Rob Ahrens '87
Comments from others:
What an instant legacy you BERLIN Brats have provided to the AOSHS Museum! Given that the BERLIN wall was the ultimate symbol of the Cold War, every Brat can and will identify with it and seek it out at the Museum. This piece of the wall is destined to become the centerpiece of the museum, and I believe the most photographed item there. Thank you BERLIN Brats for your actions!
Chris Kyrios '75
Karlsruhe HS Alumni Association
Acquiring a section of the BERLIN Wall is a significant event for the American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS). It is the most recognized symbol of the Cold War and will be a focal point within the museum. That its availability was brought to your attention by a Stuttgart/Ludwigsburg alumna is further evidence of the close relationships shared by those involved in education abroad, from either side of the desk. The BERLIN American High School alumni have set a high standard of support for AOSHS, and we are indeed grateful.
Dr. Ann Bamberger
American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS)
High school days -- a time of sports rivalry and, for overseas Brats, a time to experience other cultures, visit towns and historical sites, while forming a family bond. I was fortunate to visit the BERLIN Wall twice while living in Stuttgart, Germany in the early 1970s. When the wall came down, overseas Brats couldn't help but be overwhelmed at what they saw whether they visited the wall or not. It was a symbol to us why our parents were overseas. I wish to thank my high school friend, Audrey, for sending me an email regarding the BERLIN Wall slab for sale on eBay. Also, the Kloke family (Jim and John) who are now working with the BERLIN Brats on moving the slab to Kansas. I'd also like to thank all the BERLIN Brats and the American Overseas Schools Historical Society for their diligent work to acquire the future centerpiece of our museum and insuring future generations learn what it meant for us to live overseas during the Cold War.
Patricia Hein '76
Stuttgart/Ludwigsburg American High School Alumni Association
I was absolutely delighted to hear that the BERLIN Brats had this opportunity to purchase this important part of their heritage! And having known the former (and late) BERLIN educator Mary Muehring, whose very generous gift to the BERLIN Brats Assn., made this possible, I have little doubt that she would be thrilled to know her donation bought a piece of heritage home for all of us.
Such a purchase and now the donation of this BERLIN Wall slab to the American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS) will do much good. First, it is the largest donation or contribution to AOSHS in their history. Your BERLIN Wall slab will remind those visiting AOSHS in Wichita of your connection to the city of BERLIN. This contribution will also draw more government attention to AOSHS, as it strives to create a Historical Park that will preserve and promote the legacy of the BERLIN Brats. And finally, what was once seen by all as a fearsome reminder of the Cold War, will now become a monument and a landmark of your legacy as BERLIN Brats.
What a fantastic opportunity for the BERLIN Brats! To be able to bring a little piece of their city stateside is something I'm sure their alumni will cherish. Hats off to the BERLIN Brats committee for making this happen. My mother's entire family escaped East BERLIN shortly before the Wall was built. I for one am really looking forward to seeing this unique piece of memorabilia at the AOSHS Museum!!
Linda (Yetter) Irvine '79
Zweibrucken Alumni Association
A related matter close to my heart as a former "BERLINer" is the recent successful bid for the BERLIN Wall section, which will be headed to the AOSHS Museum as a gift from the BERLIN Brats. I know I speak for most if not all of us in taking this opportunity to thank Jeri for all her wonderful efforts, and in letting you know how proud all of us feel that this donation is being made in our names and on our behalf. We also know that it will be in excellent keeping, and that at the AOSHS museum it will serve to impress a touch of our history, US and German history, on following generations.
Katrin (Lindroth) Planz '71
BAHS Class Contact for '71
Project Leader Allied Museum Exhibit BERLIN Reunion 2006
For the past several weeks Wichita citizens, particularly those at City Hall, the office of US Representative Todd Tiahrt, the Museums on the River District, Wichita State University, the World Treasures Museum, the Historical Delano District in West Wichita, have been spreading the word that the BERLIN American High School Alumni Association has bought a section of the BERLIN Wall, and are planning to ship it to the American Oversea Schools Historical Society Archive for future display in the AOSHS Museum. The main buzzwords have been -
"Where will it be on display prior to construction of the AOSHS Historical Park?"
In retrospect, it is important to announce that since the inception of AOSHS in 1995, the society has benefited substantially by the continuous involvement and support of the BAHS Alumni Association. Two examples among many - contributing significantly to the AOSHS Vision of an Overseas Schools Historical Park in 1996, then in 2001 dressing alike in BAHS polo shirts and actively participating in the official dedication of the historical park site in Wichita, Kansas.
Now with the 2005 procurement of a section of the BERLIN Wall, donating it to the society to be a part of the BAHS exhibit in the future historical park museum, the association continues its endorsement and dedicated support of the society's mission to collect, record, and preserve the history of educating American children and youth abroad. The society considers this exemplary and commendable.
Many BAHS Alumni Association members also have historical collections in the new AOSHS Office and Archive Building in the Delano District of Wichita, and two members, Jeri (Polansky) Glass '72 and Diane (Green) Kempton '72, have served with distinction on the AOSHS Board of Directors.
Dr. Tom Drysdale
AOS Archive Director
President Emeritus AOSHS
Frequent BAHS and BERLIN Wall visitor
We are absolutely thrilled to have the BERLIN Wall section on display at the Museum of World Treasures. Accompanied by a life-size East German soldier in original uniform holding authentic binoculars and Russian made machine gun, along with border relics and supporting educational graphics and text, the BERLIN Wall exhibit amazes and intrigues visitors from all over the world as they pause to reflect on the significance of the Wall and its relevance in world history. Adults and children alike are greatly impacted as they experience first hand the enormity of the wall and observe the graffiti across its surface. Thank you AOSHS, and thank you BERLIN American High School Alumni Association, for allowing us the opportunity to display this World Treasure for all to see!
President and CEO
Museum of World Treasures
835 E 1st St N
Wichita, KS 67202
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