Wall of Shame

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The Berlin Wall seen from the western side in the 1980s, with memorials to known and unknown victims

"Wall of Shame" (German: Schandmauer) is a phrase that is most commonly associated with the Berlin Wall.[1] In this context, the phrase was coined by Willy Brandt, and it was used by the government of West Berlin, and later popularized in the English-speaking world and elsewhere from the beginning of the 1960s. Inspired by its usage in reference to the Berlin Wall, the term has later been used more widely.

For example, the term "Wall of Shame" can be applied to things, including physical barriers (walls, fences, etc.) serving dishonourable or disputed separation purposes (like the Berlin Wall and the American border wall), physical and virtual bulletin boards listing names or images for purposes of shaming, and even lists in print (i.e., walls of text naming people, companies, etc. for the purpose of shaming them, or as record of embarrassment).

Additionally, "Wall of Shame" may be a significant part in the building of a "Hall of Shame", although, more often, a "Wall of Shame" is a monument in its own right (i.e., a wall not having been erected as part of any "Hall of Shame" endeavour). More recently, the term "Wall of Shame" has been used in reference to the Mexico–United States barrier,[2] the Egypt–Gaza barrier[3] and the Israeli West Bank barrier.[4]

Applied to Japanese culture[edit]

The earliest use of the term, which is a translation of a Japanese phrase, may have been by Ruth Benedict, in her influential book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1948), and other anthropologists discussing the honor shame culture of Japan.[5]

Applied to the Berlin Wall[edit]

Willy Brandt coined the term Wall of Shame in reference to the Berlin Wall

The term was used by the government of West Berlin to refer to the Berlin Wall, which surrounded West Berlin and separated it from East Berlin and the GDR. In 1961, the government of East Germany named the erected wall as the "Anti-Fascist Protection Wall", a part of the inner German border; many Berliners, however, called it "Schandmauer" ("Wall of Shame").

The term was coined by governing mayor Willy Brandt.[6] Outside Germany it first appeared as "Wall of Shame" in a cover story published by TIME in 1962,[7] and President of the United States John F. Kennedy used the term in his Annual Message to the US Congress on the State of the Union, 14 January 1963.[8] Often, graffiti would be painted on points, where a street would intersect with the wall, often reading, "Road blocked by Wall of Shame".

The Berlin Wall was referred to as the "Wall of Shame" in many more recent notable contexts, such as:

Other uses[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greinacher, Uso (1991). The Wall of Shame: The Berlin Wall. University of California, Berkeley.
  2. ^ a b "Walls of Shame: The US-Mexico Border Wall". Al Jazeera. 10 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b http://articles.latimes.com/2009/dec/21/world/la-fg-egypt-wall21-2009dec21
  4. ^ a b "General Assembly Adopts Text Requesting International Court Of Justice To Issue Advisory Opinion On West Bank Separation Wall". Un.org. 8 December 2003.
  5. ^ Modell, Judith (1999). "THE WALL OF SHAME: RUTH BENEDICT'S ACCOMPLISHMENT IN 'THE CHRYSANTHEMUM AND THE SWORD'". 24 (2): 193–215. JSTOR 29790601. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ Julia Sonnevend (2016): Stories Without Borders: The Berlin Wall and the Making of a Global Iconic Event, p. 47, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780190604325
  7. ^ "CNN Cold War - First Draft: Title". Archived from the original on 2 May 2006.
  8. ^ Peters, Gerhard & Woolley, John T. (14 January 1963). "John F. Kennedy: "Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union."". presidency.ucsb.edu. The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 26 September 2013.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Journal of Democracy 10.2 (1999) 105-112[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 September 2006. Retrieved 6 May 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Spindel, Cheywa; Levy, Elisa; Connor, Melissa (2000). Judd, Karen (ed.). With an End in Sight: Strategies from the UNIFEM Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence Against Women (PDF). The United Nations Development Fund for Women. ISBN 0-9679502-9-5. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  13. ^ Lachance, M. (York University): "Geographies of protests: spatialities of social movements activities" (2003) [1]
  14. ^ Mervin, John (9 October 2015). "In Peru water is a high price for Lima's poor". BBC News. Retrieved 21 October 2016. At the very top of the hill, is the final insult that Lima adds to the injurious effects of poverty: a wall, ten feet high, garlanded with razor wire. ... They call it the Wall of Shame.
  15. ^ "Lebanon begins building 'security wall' around Palestinian refugee camp". The New Arab.
  16. ^ "Wall being constructed to hide slums from Trump". Times of India. 14 February 2020.