November 9th 1989, Berlin
It was almost 7pm and a dreary press conference was drawing to a close on East Berlin’s Mohrenstrasse. Then Günther Schabowski, spokesman for the ruling SED, announced plans for revised travel rules, allowing East German citizens to leave the country. He was unaware of the finer points of the rules, not supposed to be announced until the next day, such as the need for a passport. So when a journalist asked when this new travel regime would apply, he replied: “As far as I can tell, immediately.”
What was supposed to be an announcement of reformed travel restrictions was the de facto end of the Berlin Wall. Disbelieving crowds flocked to border crossings, overwhelming uninformed, uniformed guards. Confusion reigned over how Schabowski’s remarks were to be interpreted but no one knew what to do. By 11.30pm, the crush at the Bornholmer Strasse checkpoint was so great that guards ended all controls.
After 38 years of ordered division, Germany was effectively united by a joyous surge of revellers.
As a cheering crowd streamed over the Bornholmer crossing to West Berlin, a 36-year-old woman emerged from her weekly visit to the sauna.
She joined the crowd for a few hours in West Berlin but, while the rest of the city danced on the wall through the night, Angela Merkel returned to East Berlin and was at her desk as usual the next morning.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in a bloodless revolution on November 9, 1989 is a joyous milestone in German history, ending 28 years of Cold War separation. But because of the dark chapters associated with the date in the past, it was considered an ill choice for a public holiday. Germans instead celebrate October 3, 1990, the official reunification of East and West Germany. (Video YouTube)
The fall of the Berlin Wall in a bloodless revolution on November 9, 1989 is a joyous milestone in German history, ending 28 years of Cold War separation. But because of the dark chapters associated with the date in the past, it was considered an ill choice for a public holiday. Germans instead celebrate October 3, 1990, the official reunification of East and West Germany.
The History Channel says
“East German officials today opened the Berlin Wall, allowing travel from East to West Berlin. The following day, celebrating Germans began to tear the wall down. One of the ugliest and most infamous symbols of the Cold War was soon reduced to rubble that was quickly snatched up by souvenir hunters. The East German action followed a decision by Hungarian officials a few weeks earlier to open the border between Hungary and Austria. This effectively ended the purpose of the Berlin Wall, since East German citizens could now circumvent it by going through Hungary, into Austria, and thence into West Germany. The decision to open the wall was also a reflection of the immense political changes taking place in East Germany, where the old communist leadership was rapidly losing power and the populace was demanding free elections and movement toward a free market system.The action also had an impact on President George Bush and his advisors. After watching television coverage of the delirious German crowds demolishing the wall, many in the Bush administration became more convinced than ever that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s statements about desiring a new relationship with the West must be taken more seriously. Unlike 1956 and 1968, when Soviet forces ruthlessly crushed protests in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, respectively, Gorbachev actually encouraged the East German action. As such, the destruction of the Berlin Wall was one of the most significant actions leading to the end of the Cold War”.