Additionalinformation

TheFalloftheWallonNovember9th1989

“And what makes me especially happy is that the Wall opened without a single shot fired.”

Uwe Nübel in an interview, 2021

The Berlin Wall divided the city for 28 years. It was meant to stop people from fleeing the GDR and East Berlin and entering West Berlin. But on 9 November 1989, this highly secured border became permeable.

After Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, the political situation in the entire Eastern Bloc began to change. In 1988, Gorbachev abandoned the political principle of limited sovereignty for the Warsaw Pact countries; the Eastern Bloc countries were now allowed to create their own policies. In response, on 2 May 1989, Hungary made a show of dismantling its border fence to Austria. It was the first hole in the "Iron Curtain." Thousands of GDR citizens took the opportunity to travel to Hungary and flee from there to West Germany.

In fall 1989, masses of people participated in demonstrations calling for freedom and human rights, such as here at the Monday Demonstration in Leipzig on 16 October 1989.
In fall 1989, masses of people participated in demonstrations calling for freedom and human rights, such as here at the Monday Demonstration in Leipzig on 16 October 1989.
People at the Brandenburg Gate celebrate the opening of the GDR border on 10 November 1989
People at the Brandenburg Gate celebrate the opening of the GDR border on 10 November 1989
: Press conference with Günter Schabowski on 9 November 1989
: Press conference with Günter Schabowski on 9 November 1989

Public support for the SED state had been waning since the 1980s. An opposition movement had formed and was becoming more vocal in its criticism of the political and social conditions in the GDR. Increasing numbers of people tried to leave the country by emigrating or fleeing. Yet the SED remained unwilling to adopt the reform course of the Soviet Union. In the end, the protest movement forced the SED to make concessions, including, in 1989, granting GDR citizens the right to travel. The new emigration law was announced prematurely, however, ushering in the country’s ultimate collapse.

"What remains is this extraordinary feeling of happiness on both sides. That people waited on the bridge and said, ‘We’ll show you Berlin. Glad you are here!’ – It was without any malice, without concern for the consequences. It was just beautiful."

Andreas Kämper describing the happiness that prevailed on the first days after the border opened, 2021

In the early evening of 9 November, Günter Schabowski, secretary of the Central Committee in charge of information, announced to the international press that people would be allowed to leave the country immediately, without any red tape or applications. This announcement, which was broadcast by Western media, led hundreds of East Berliners to gather at border crossings throughout the evening. They wanted to see whether it was really possible to visit West Berlin without any bureaucratic hindrances and long waits. The border guards at the crossing points, however, had not been informed of the new regulations and were unsure of what to do.

Caving in to the public pressure, the commander of the Bornholmer Straße border crossing let a few people exit to the West, but their departure was still tied to expatriation. The situation remained critical. More and more people came to the border crossing. At half past eleven, the commander opened the barrier and let everyone who wanted to leave pass. At midnight, the barriers at six other border crossings were also lifted. The "Wall had fallen." Throughout Berlin, people embraced each other and celebrated.

West Berliners welcoming people from East Berlin as they crossed the Bornholmer Bridge into West Berlin, 10 November 1989
West Berliners welcoming people from East Berlin as they crossed the Bornholmer Bridge into West Berlin, 10 November 1989

"We can only hope that the states that build walls, the dictators who wall in their people…that it won’t be the people who perish, but, rather, the dictators who lose their power."

Kiddy Citny on the hope that the fall of the Wall continues to inspire today, 2021

Contemporary witnesses remember

9 November 1989 and the ensuing period
Gábor Simon

1989: A feeling of liberation
Dirk Moldt

Where were you when the Wall came down?
Ignasi Blanch

The Peaceful Revolution in a historical context
Birgit Kinder

Hospitality and jobs
Berrin Alpbek

Changes and worries after 1989
Đào Quang Vinh

"Vaterland" and the significance of 9 November
Günther Schaefer

Welcome money in 1989
Berrin Alpbek

Seeing history in the making
Andreas Kämper

After 1989: From contract work to suspension of deportation
Hiền Phan

Where were you on 9 November 1989?
Norbert Trompeteler

Border opening, sparkling wine and warm welcomes
Christine Cyrus

Where were you when the Wall came down?
Jim Avignon

Where were you when the Wall came down?
Ines Bayer and Raik Hönemann

Looking back at the fall of the Wall in 1989
Vũ Ngọc Roãn

The fall of the Wall and new freedoms
Mirta Domacinovic

9 November 1989 at Checkpoint Charlie
Siegrid Müller-Holtz

First encounters between East and West Berliners
Gabriel Heimler

How did the fall of the Wall affect your residence status in the GDR?
Teresa Casanueva

Free country – occupied country
Ursula Wünsch

Remembering their first visit "over there"
Erik Mahnkopf and Daniel Kensbock

The fall of the Berlin Wall and "Dancing to Freedom"
Jolly Kunjappu

Where were you when the wall came down?
C. F.

About the fall of the Wall
Karina Bjerregaard

Fall of the Wall and the Vietnamese community in West Berlin
Đào Quang Vinh

Where were you when the Wall came down?
Sanem Kleff

News of the fall of the Wall and a visit to Berlin
Heskel Nathaniel

Transformation or transruption: Reviewing the 1990s
Uwe Nübel

Positive and negative experiences after 1990
Berrin Alpbek

Looking back at the turnaround period
Lutz Pottien

The fall of the Wall
Heike Stephan

Additional information:

Theme page on the fall of the Wall from the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung: https://www.bpb.de/themen/deutsche-einheit/mauerfall/

Prerequisites and reasons for the border opening: https://www.lpb-bw.de/gruende-mauerfall

Dossier of the Stiftung Aufarbeitung SED-Unrecht: https://www.bundesstiftung-aufarbeitung.de/de/recherche/dossiers/198990-friedliche-revolution-und-deutsche-einheit

Information on the fall of the Wall on the website of Haus der deutschen Geschichte: https://www.hdg.de/lemo/kapitel/deutsche-einheit/friedliche-revolution/fall-der-mauer.html

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