The Johns Hopkins Gazette: November 8, 1999
November 8, 1999
VOL. 29, NO. 11


How Hopkins Got Its Chunk of the Berlin Wall

By Glenn Small
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Five years ago, Jack Janes was in Germany looking for a piece of the Berlin Wall that he could secure for Johns Hopkins. The director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies stood in a park outside Berlin, examining large sections of the wall.

Finally, he found one that appealed to him. It was, like the rest, huge and lying on its side, partially obscured by another section of wall. But on this particular section, Janes noted the letters F and R.

Looking more closely, he noticed the letter E followed the first two letters. Although he couldn't read the rest of the word, Janes hoped it would be an I, which would make the word FREI, the German word for free.

Jack Janes, director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, with a piece of the Berlin Wall that now stands at SAIS.

He chose that section of the wall, and it would be several years later before he would see it again, erected in the courtyard of the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. But instead of FREI, the word scrawled on this relic from the Cold War was actually FRED.

Now, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, Janes laughs over the message from Fred. But while the graffiti on the wall is more personal than inspirational, the section of wall stands as a sober monument to an important part of United States and German history.

"We're teaching students here to understand how that happened, and how to prevent that from happening in the future," Janes said recently, standing next to the segment of the wall, which is 11 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs more than 3,000 pounds.

Originally, Janes had wanted a much smaller piece of the wall that could be placed in the institute's conference room, but when he asked the Berlin Senate--akin to the Baltimore City Council--for a section in 1995, only large sections were available, he remembered.

So Janes approached Paul Wolfowitz, dean of SAIS, about accepting the gift of the wall for the school's courtyard and Wolfowitz agreed, along with Ted Baker, associate dean for finance and administration at SAIS.

The deal was, the Berlin Senate would give Hopkins the section of the wall, but Janes would have to find a way to get it to Washington. He wrote a letter to the German minister of defense and didn't hear back for a long time.

When he did, it was in the form of a telephone call from a German military attache stationed in Virginia. Basically, the officer said, "We've got your wall. Where do you want it?" Janes remembered.

Delivered to the SAIS campus in September of 1997, it was erected on a concrete base and secured to the courtyard wall with a cable, Baker said.

"It's only got graffiti on the front part," Baker said. "And of course that is because the front part was exposed to the population of Western Germany. The back part was a no man's land."

Turid Nagel-Casebolt was a teenager living on the East German side of that wall on Nov. 9, 1989. That night, a state television broadcast gave a vague announcement about East Germans being allowed to go to West Germany the next day.

"We started calling up each other to find out if it was true," Nagel-Casebolt said. "It was supposed to be the next day, but everyone went to the wall that night. It was a big party."

Nagel-Casebolt, now 25 and married, will soon begin working at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, just a few blocks away from the Hopkins section of the wall. She plans to visit to remember how much her life has changed in the last decade.

Begun in 1984, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, an affiliate of the university, is a center for nonpartisan, advanced research, study and discussion of the Federal Republic of Germany--its politics, economy, culture and society. For more information about AICGS, see its Web site at

AICGS, SAIS Mark 10th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

To mark the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies is sponsoring a seminar in its series, Ten Years beyond the Wall: Germany Transformed?

Manfred Bierwisch, professor of linguistics at Humboldt University, Berlin, and vice president of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science, will speak on "Science, Culture and Unification: Recasting East German Academic Institutions" from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 18, at the RFF 7th Floor Conference Center, 1616 P St. N.W., Washington.

A world-renowned scholar, Bierwisch will address not only the political and institutional changes but also the question whether the unification process has affected content and methods of scientific work in Germany.

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will host two forums reflecting on the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"Ten Years After: What Political and Economic Role Does Russia Seek in Central and Eastern Europe?" will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8, in Rome Auditorium. The event is sponsored by SAIS Review, the school's journal of international affairs.

The panelists include Ilya Prizel, SAIS associate professor of Russian area and Eastern European studies; Mark Kramer, director of the Harvard University Project on Cold War Studies and senior associate at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian Studies; and Charles Gati, SAIS Foreign Policy Institute fellow.

"Ten Years Later: Changes in Central and Eastern Europe: Personal Perspectives" will take place at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10, in Kenney Auditorium. This event is hosted by the Foreign Policy Institute.

The panelists include Stephen Szabo, SAIS associate dean for academic affairs and European studies professor, who will act as moderator; Geza Jeszensky, ambassador of the Republic of Hungary to the United States; and Alexandr Vondra, ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States.

Rome Auditorium is located at 1619 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. and Kenney Auditorium at 1740 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington.