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Revealed: How a piece of the Berlin Wall ended up in Croydon

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TWO years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a group of Berlin schoolchildren visited Croydon and gave the borough a fragment of the partition.

November 9 marked the 25th anniversary of the day the wall came down, and Councillor Toni Letts remembers meeting the youngsters in 1991 after Jim Walker, then Mayor of Croydon, invited them to visit.

The fragment is now on display at the Museum of Croydon.

"They were charming young people," said Cllr Letts.

"I have never known young people with so much ambition, drive and energy. They were full of excitement about the new life that was promised to them."

Mr Walker invited the students, from east Berlin, to visit after meeting them on a trip to Germany. Cllr Letts recalls that five girls and two boys, all around 15, and their teacher had tea in the mayor's parlour.

"Jim Walker adored young people," said Cllr Letts. "They were so honest about the difficulties of living in east Berlin, with little money, no real future and no luxury goods whatsoever. One of the first things they remembered their parents buying when they went into the west was toilet roll.

"I've never forgotten that day and the way those young people, who hadn't had a great start in life, were grasping fully their futures.

"I just recall their energy and enthusiasm for life."

And Cllr Letts said Croydon's young people could learn from the teenagers of Berlin.

"It would be a good experience for some of our young people to talk those in Berlin.

"They will have watched their city grow and develop into a great place to do business and work and be entertained, but still keeping wonderful museums and being terribly honest [about the past]. They haven't tried to change history and I think that would be an education for our young people."

Cllr Letts added that young people are not valued enough and Croydon should be proud of its youth.

She said: "The riots gave young people a sense of power in powerless lives. We still have young people, particularly in the north, who've never had a job.

"Croydon has come together since the riots. What happened after was miraculous because people did it for themselves.

"I think we don't value young people enough. They're tomorrow's leaders and as Jim Walker would have said, they will have to look after me when I'm older."

Revealed: How a piece of the Berlin Wall ended up in Croydon


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