Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sunday's Column - The Wende Museum

It's easy to let time slip away from the public consciousness.  How many years is it since we heard the words perestroika and glasnost, for instance?  Ten, fifteen or is it twenty years?  In fact, how long were we all dominated by the Cold War with all it's threats and saber rattling?  Today's freshman students have no first hand knowledge of the threat from the Soviet Empire; just stories told by old people.  But to those old people it's only yesterday.
A piece of the Berlin Wall at the Wende

In Culver City there is a museum devoted to the time of the Cold War, it's called the Wende Museum, which is a German word meaning turning point.  The collection there is the brainchild of a young man called Justinian Jampol.  As a self- confessed nerd, he decided to spend his inheritance on this place rather than fast cars.  The result is a building full of communist era artifacts that would have been consigned to the dustbin of history if he hadn't persuaded various governments to hand them over.  "They can be quite difficult opening up about their past," he told me.

Among the collection are scores of busts and statues of various dignitaries, as the Soviets did seem to like their images in front of everyone.  But it was the human stories that first really attracted Jampol to his work.  He traveled extensively throughout the Eastern Bloc when he was a student in England.

Today, trucks arrive all the time with more items for his staff of 15 to collate.  If you visit, and you can find all the information on the Web site at then don't miss the exhibit on Checkpoint Charlie, but from the E. German side which was called Friedrich/Zimmerstrsse.  It's chilling!

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