Berlin’s crumbling wall raises Jacob’s Hope
by Stuart Goldschen
As the wall dividing East and West Berlin falls piece by piece these days under the hammers of celebrating Germans, hope rises in its place. Hope for peace through the unity of all mankind. And hope for Jacob Wetterling through the universal heartbeat for children all the world around.
The Berlin Wall and Jacob’s Hope fused both those goals recently when the two symbols came together briefly for the world to see. In white-outlined dark letters about 2 feet high, enclosed in a 4-by-6 foot black-bordered red rectangle, the words “Jacob’s Hope” were emblazoned on the West Berlin side of the wall near the Brandenburg Gate in East Germany.
The prominent display of Jacob’s Hope was seen and photographed by Kelli Birk, a 20-year-old junior at the College of St. Benedict. She was traveling through Europe as part of a semester abroad in the college’s International Studies program in Salzburg, Austria.
Birk saw the hand-pained message of Jacob’s Hope on Dec. 29 (1989) as she toured the Berlin Wall on a stop in her seven-nation excursion from Salzburg. She said a friend stopped at the same spot in mid-November but saw nothing about Jacob, and another friend saw only the “J” remains of the same painting in January (1990).
Birk said neither she nor people she talked to at the wall knew who had painted the message. She said it was a big surprise for her to see Jacob’s name among the motley array of world-wide graffiti.
“Oh, my God, I can’t believe it!” she said she exclaimed at her first sight of the lettering.
Birk said she had read of Jacob’s abduction while in Salzburg and had received news clippings and phone calls about the incident from her parents in Winona, Minn. She arrived in Europe in September, a month before Jacob was kidnapped, and returned to St. Joseph at the end of January.
Birk thinks the Jacob’s Hope message no longer exists on the wall because the wall itself is fast disappearing. She said the whole bottom half had been chipped away by souvenir hunters, and large sections had been knocked down.
“People were selling pieces of the wall right there for about six to 10 marks (about $3.50-$5.50),” Birk said. She said she brought home some eight or nine small pieces that she picked up off the ground.
While none of the pieces Birk collected had parts of the Jacob’s Hope message on them, all were glowing with hope.
Hope for Germany, Europe, the world – and Jacob.