Xavier Rabbi Speaker at Dedication of Berlin Wall Monument

June 24, 2010

Twenty years after it was torn down, a piece of the Berlin Wall is going back up – this time as a monument to freedom.

On July 3 from 5:30-9:30 pm, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will dedicate a graffiti-covered 4-by-13-foot section of the Berlin Wall as a monument to its fall in 1989. “Freedom without Walls” will feature German dancers, a dedication ceremony, Beethoven’s "Ode to Joy," hors d'oeuvres, dinner, jazz with the Kathy Wade Trio, and a musical finale.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is at 50 East Freedom Way in downtown Cincinnati. Tickets are $50 per person including valet parking. Reservations are needed by June 30 at http://www.freedomcenter.org/berlinwall/. Gala co-chairs are Ute Papke and Laurie Leonard.

Xavier University’s Abie Ingber, Founding Director of the Office of Interfaith Community Engagement, will offer the prayer for the occasion. "The fall of the Berlin Wall represented a critical moment in our modern history when, symbolically, the totalitarian repressive Communist regime collapsed,” Ingber says. “I was linked to this event as a child of Holocaust survivors and as one who worked for human rights in the Soviet Union. Modern Germany has been a tremendous exemplar of a new respect for dignity, pluralism and moral leadership in our world community. On the eve of our Independence Day, this wall represents Freedom and the pursuit of liberty in our lifetime."

Keynote speaker will be Malcolm Thomson. After a twenty-seven year career on Wall Street, he became an author, writing Cleopatra's Needle, an espionage-thriller based on events leading to the 1967 Six Day War. Formerly Senior Director with Alliance-Bernstein, Thomson serves as Chairman of the Open University Foundation (American Friends of the Open University) and as a member of the International Governing Council. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the convocation speaker at Thomson’s rabbinical ordination. Thomson served as the Rabbi of Temple Shalom in Greenwich, CT, and has served on the Board of Trustees of Jewish Theological Seminary since 2002.

The 96-mile Berlin Wall was erected by the Communist East German government in 1961 to prevent residents of Communist East Berlin from getting to Democratic West Berlin. It divided families and friends, and was a symbol of the Cold War divisions between communism and capitalism. In 1990, East Germany voted to reunite with West Germany, and became the reunified Federal Republic of Germany, with Berlin as its capital.

Richard Schade, professor of German studies at the University of Cincinnati, and Cincinnati’s honorary consul for the German government, flew to Berlin as the wall was coming down in 1989. He began efforts to obtain a wall segment from the city of Berlin. Berlin’s only proviso was that Schade had to get the segment from Germany to Cincinnati. Fabian Schmahl, president of ThyssenKrupp-Bilstein of America, a German-owned manufacturer of shock absorbers with an office in Hamilton, offered to include the segment with their regular materials shipment. The Munich Sister City Association of Greater Cincinnati aided Schade in obtaining funding for the design, installation and maintenance of the monument. Getting the segment to Cincinnati would not have been possible without ThyssenKrupp-Bilstein, Kuehne+Nagel and Hosea Project Movers.