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.