News

City's hidden tribute to fall of Communism

Pieces of Berlin Wall tucked away in Shoreline office park

This week, Mountain View residents join others around the world in marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. But few know that their city is home to two pieces of the Iron Curtain — on display for anyone to see in a Shoreline office park.

In the corner of a parking lot behind an office building at 2685 Marine Way, just a block from Shoreline Park and San Antonio Road, two Berlin Wall sections, each four feet wide and twice as tall, are planted in cement with a short wrought-iron fence surrounding them. A plaque calls the display "A Tribute to American Resolve," and acknowledges the American economic ideals that led to the fall of the wall between Nov. 9 and Nov. 12, 1989.

The sections still have the graffiti that was sprayed on them in Berlin, including the words "Wir Lieben Dich" (We love you) on one section and what looks to be a caricature of Elvis Presley on the other. The sections reportedly weigh in at seven tons each and are buried over a foot deep in the cement.

"I think it's kind of neat Mountain View has a part of the Berlin Wall," said Honor Spitz, president of the Mountain View Historical Association. "It is one of the best-kept secrets in the city."

The pieces are "very nicely displayed," she added. "A lot of care was taken."

The sections were purchased and brought to the U.S. by Los Altos resident Frank Renatus Golzen, who became a successful real estate developer on the Bay side of Highway 101 after emigrating from Germany at age 16 in 1931. Golzen died in April of last year at age 92.

The Golzen family continues to manage the Bayshore Business Park, as the office complex is called. Frank's son Robert, 59, does the leasing and management, and Frank's grandson Thomas, 24, does the bookkeeping.

As for setting up the display, "I think it was a great idea," Robert said as he and his son sat at the office park's cafe on Tuesday. "It's a history lesson. I wonder these days if high school kids know as much about the Berlin Wall as us older folks do. It was really the beginning of the end of Communism."

On the plaque, Golzen wrote a brief history of events leading up to the fall of the Wall. Originally built in 1961, the infamous barrier turned West Berlin into "an island of freedom in a sea of oppression," the plaque says.

The Soviet government called the Wall an "anti-fascist protective rampart" designed to dissuade western aggression. But at least 100 East Berliners were shot and killed trying to escape over to the western side.

Eventually, of course, the Wall was torn down, and ''The world must not forget that it was America's resolve and its political and economic ideas that made this bloodless revolution and most significant historical event possible," Golzen wrote on the plaque.

Robert Golzen said the story of these sections began when his father traveled to Berlin six months after the Wall came down. Through a friend in the student exchange business, Frank found a baker who was able to arrange shipment of one piece to Mountain View. After the shipping container arrived, Frank was surprised to see not one but two pieces inside.

There are dozens of similar Berlin Wall sections scattered around the world, but no others in the Bay Area.

After he brought the wall sections to the U.S., Golzen would not tell another local newspaper in 1992 how much he had paid for them. His son Robert believes it wasn't more than a few thousand dollars, with the installation and architectural design costing around $20,000.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by vfree
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 11, 2009 at 3:05 pm

That's very cool.


Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Nov 11, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Maybe soon they can add a chunk of Israel's apartheid wall to that installation.


Like this comment
Posted by Honor Spitz
a resident of Shoreline West
on Nov 11, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Great article, Daniel. Hopefully more people will now find out about this hidden treasure/history lesson in our own backyard.


2 people like this
Posted by Gary Rosen
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm

There was no what is dishonestly called the "apartheid wall" in Israel until it was erected in response to a wave of suicide bombers whose victims included Arab as well as Jewish Israelis. It is the grossest sophistry to compare this protective barrier to the Communist wall designed to keep people from seeking freedom. If it is the lack of a Palestinian state that bothers you, history shows that it was the Arabs, not Israel, who prevented the establishtment of that state.


Like this comment
Posted by The Dad
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 12, 2009 at 10:44 am

I like the sentiment and the memorial to the reunification of Germany, but I bet there's a few billion Chinese who
would argue communism has not fallen as the headline suggests.


Like this comment
Posted by Catherine
a resident of Jackson Park
on Nov 12, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Wow, I had no idea (and I was even there when the wall fell!). Can hardly wait to go check it out! Thanks for the great journalism :-)


Like this comment
Posted by Gary Rosen
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 12, 2009 at 8:57 pm

"The Dad"

- good point, along with Vietnamese, North Koreans and Cubans.


Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Big
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 13, 2009 at 7:03 am

Maybe some day a piece of "Bush's" wall with Mexico will be added.


Like this comment
Posted by Missing Info
a resident of Shoreline West
on Nov 13, 2009 at 7:06 am

They didn't mention in the article if it was accessible to the public.

What a major omission.

Guess I'll have to risk getting shot to see the Berlin wall after all...


Like this comment
Posted by close reader
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2009 at 10:45 am

Second sentence in article:

"But few know that their city is home to two pieces of the Iron Curtain — on display for anyone to see in a Shoreline office park."

The major omission is in your mind.

"The Dad" - you're wrong about China. It is Communist in name only, at this point. The streets are full of bartering, anything goes market-wise, and even at the state level nothing about that country is run like a "pure" Communist state, as the USSR (and China) used to be before .... well, before around the time the wall fell. Ditto Cuba. North Korea and Vietnam are really more unique governments - I don't know why they got lumped in there.


Like this comment
Posted by Christoph Probst
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 14, 2009 at 6:38 am

Where is this statue exactly? "In the corner of a parking lot behind an office building ..."

Why not include some more photos to indicate exactly where it is? Or even a link to Google Maps?


"close reader": It is no comfort to the dissidents in Chinese jails to tell them that their jailers are not "pure communists." China is a lot more similar to the USSR than you think. Russian leaders didn't believe in Marxism, either, in spite of their public pronouncements. It's not true that "anything goes" market-wise in China. It's only "anything goes" if you can bribe the right people. The government still has tight control over the economy. The currency is not freely convertible. It's easy to get locked up for expressing the wrong political ideas. China is still a tyrannical country and a scary place.

North Korea and Vietnam are similar because like China they are single-party states, nominally communist, with bad human rights records and little tolerance for political dissent.


Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I went out and found the monument this afternoon. Here's a link to its exact location:

Web Link

It's pretty amazing to have this here in Mountain View. Unfortunately, the associated plaque is notably lacking any sort of graciousness or modesty, and makes it sound like the U.S. shouted and the wall came tumbling down. Though our help was invaluable, in the end it was Germans who actually pulled the thing down. That's not an unimportant historical point, and it would have been nice to seen it acknowledged.

But better an imperfect display than none at all. I plan to pass its location on to my friends. My Dad, who lives in Palo Alto, will also get a kick out of it, I'm sure.


Like this comment
Posted by close reader
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:58 am

Christoph: Thanks for your post. In fact I totally agree with what you wrote. Without quibbling or splitting hairs, I'd just like to say that in light of all this, the headline still seems accurate to me.

Dave: great link & summary of the memorial.


Like this comment
Posted by Linda Dupre
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Wow, terrific story! I lived in MV 30 years, moved to Phoenix, AZ in 2000, never knew the tribute was there. I'm coming out in Dec. will check it out with my granddaughters.


Like this comment
Posted by Oldabelincoln
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Christoph Probst is completely correct.

Certainly there have never been any "pure" Communist states other than perhaps during their first few months of existence before the power plays and human nature take over.

If the fall of the Berlin Wall was not the fall of Communism, it was certainly part of the fall of the Iron Curtain as Churchill defined it.

Communist states of varying degrees of purity remain, and our jobs have been Romneyed over to them, at least to China and Vietnam. If we ever establish relations with Cuba and North Korea, more jobs will doubtless be Romneyed there as well.


Like this comment
Posted by Christopher Parkinson
a resident of Willowgate
on Oct 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Updates to this article. Google has purchased the property less the Berlin Wall Sections and signage. They only want the ground. The VAC is the committee who is given the leadership in finding an appropriate site for these historical pieces.

Here is a web for the SFGate article on this.

Web Link

Next Meeting Nov 7 or 14 at city hall in the Atrium room. We are still deliberating where we will place these historical pieces of art.

Christopher Parkinson
Chair of the VAC


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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