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Berlin Wall Comes Down

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

The evening of November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall, a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin since 1961 came down. Construction of the wall was commenced by the German Democratic Republic on August 13, 1961. The Wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, accompanied by a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, beds of nails, and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" from building a socialist state in East Germany. This clip from The New York Times gives a brief history of the Berlin Wall from it's conception, up to it's removal:

GDR authorities officially referred to the Berlin Wall as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart. The West Berlin city government sometimes referred to it as the "Wall of Shame", a term coined by mayor Willy Brandt in reference to the Wall's restriction on freedom of movement. Along with the separate and much longer Inner German border (IGB), which demarcated the border between East and West Germany, it came to physically symbolize the "Iron Curtain" that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.

In 1989, a series of revolutions in nearby Eastern Bloc countries—in Poland and Hungary in particular - caused a chain reaction in East Germany that ultimately resulted in the demise of the Wall. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on November 9, 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the Wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, euphoric people and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the Wall. The "Fall of the Berlin Wall" paved the way for German reunification, which formally took place on October 3, 1990. Here is CNN's live coverage of the event's during the Berlin Wall coming down:

The East German government responded by disallowing any further travel to Hungary, but allowed those already there to return to East Germany. This triggered similar events in neighboring Czechoslovakia. This time, however, the East German authorities allowed people to leave, provided that they did so by train through East Germany. This was followed by mass demonstrations within East Germany itself. The protest demonstrations grew considerably by early November. The movement neared its height on November 4, when half a million people gathered to demand political change, at the Alexanderplatz demonstration, East Berlin's large public square and transportation hub. On October 9, 1989, the police and army units were given permission to use force against those assembled, but this did not deter the church service and march from taking place, which gathered 70,000 people. Here is footage of a crane taking down the wall structure as people cheer it on:

More footage of people actually removing the wall structure:

After hearing the broadcast, East Germans began gathering at the Wall, at the six checkpoints between East and West Berlin, demanding that border guards immediately open the gates. Soon afterward, a crowd of West Berliners jumped on top of the Wall, and were soon joined by East German youngsters.

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