AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – University leaders gathered at UMass Amherst’s Memorial Hall Tuesday to celebrate the installation of a segment of the Berlin Wall.
The Consul General of Germany to the New England States, Dr. Sonja Kreibich, joined both the University’s President and Chancellor. This section of the Berlin Wall was painted by French artist Thierry Noir who risked arrest back in the 1980s.
The portion of the wall named “The Power of Creativity over Concrete” was donated to UMass Amherst by the family of Eric Hanson. Noir is known to be one of the first artists to paint the Berlin Wall and risked being arrested by East German authorities for painting on the west side. He painted nearly six kilometers of the wall over a span of five years.
Hanson purchased the chunk of the wall in 2010 with the intent to inform people about the historical significance of the Berlin Wall and wanted to donate it to a university. Hanson died in 2018 and his family chose UMass Amherst to fulfill Hanson’s wish.
“I think this is an important symbol for every student to be aware of and see it every day and draw conclusions from it,” said Dr. Kreibich.
The wall has been installed on the campus outside the Herter Hall within a glass case, positioned in the same east/west direction to reflect its placement in Germany. The consul general says this construction serves as a constant reminder of the political conditions that led to the Berlin Wall and the power of democracy.
“The university is grateful to the family of Eric Hanson for the generous donation of this segment of the Berlin Wall,” Chancellor Subbaswamy said. “For nearly 30 years, the wall stood as a cruel symbol of division — dissecting not only a city and a country, but families and entire societies — and its fall marked a joyous occasion of unification and the beginning of the end of the Cold War. This particular segment of the wall shows that inspiring art can be made amid terrible situations, and its presence at the heart of campus reflects UMass Amherst’s revolutionary spirit.”