Alarmed that the last remnants of the Berlin Wall may soon vanish forever, architectural historians in Germany have issued an appeal to save the long-hated symbol of German post-war division and to preserve what is left of it for future generations.
Fourteen years after the Wall fell, tourists to the capital of unified Berlin are baffled by the fact that there are few traces of the Wall to use as backdrops for snapshots.
And tourists who question Berliners about where the Wall was located often elicit only shrugs in response. Older Berliners are eager to forget where the Wall was. Incredibly to outsiders, younger Berliners often do not know where it once stood.
But the architectural historians at Cottbus University say that is precisely why they have written a 750-page application to have the Berlin Wall listed as a cultural heritage monument.
"We are talking about nothing more or less than the history of our nation," Cottbus University professor Leo Schmidt said.
"It may be ugly. It may be contentious. It may be painful for people to look at. But it is our history and our culture," he said.
"If we don't preserve it for future generations, it will one day be lost forever."
A few segments of the Wall were collected and placed together and classified as a national treasure in 2000.
"But that is not nearly enough," Schmidt said. "The Berlin Wall is a hard and very real symbol of the Cold War. We need to act fast to preserve what is left of it in order to keep history alive for future generations, for whom the Cold War will be nothing more than a footnote in history books."
Even Germans old enough to remember when the Wall was built in the summer of 1961 do not know much about the actual structure.
"Everyone has a mental image of the Wall," Schmidt said. "But very few people have ever had a clear overview of the entire fortified barrier which not only cut through the heart of this city but also surrounded West Berlin and which was part of a vast system of moats and fortifications between East and West Germany."
The 750-page document compiled by the architectural historians contains detailed structural information along with first-hand input from East German engineers and a number of East German guards who manned the watch towers and patrolled the length of the Wall.
"These people knew it intimately," he said. "They knew it better than anybody. And it is vitally important to record their impressions while these people are still alive and before their memories fade."
In fact, the Wall consisted of the reinforced concrete wall along the West Berlin side, backed by a no-man's land and a series of barbed-wire and concrete barriers studded with boobytraps and trip-wires culminating in a high fence on the East Berlin side.
At the height of the Cold War, thousands of transit visitors daily went through a gruelling passport checkpoint at Friedrich Strasse.
Those one-day visitors were required to leave East Berlin by midnight, and tearful scenes were common at the Friedrich Strasse checkpoint.
In Berlin slang, the checkpoint entrance there, a glass-and-concrete building just north of Friedrich Strasse train station, became known as the "Traenen Palast" (Palace of Tears).
Now, with the Wall long gone, that structure is a dance club. The words "Traenen Palast" are spelled out in bright neon lights above the entrance.