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09 November 2019 02:37

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  • Five days later, on November 9, 1989, it was Schabowski who announced East Germany's new travel policy.

Five days later, on November 9, 1989, it was Schabowski who announced East Germany's new travel policy.

The day the Berlin Wall came down

On the night of 9 November 1989, young and old began to dismantle the Berlin Wall. Brick by brick, they broke down the 3.6-metre-high structure, which formed part of the border between communist East and capitalist West Germany. They led to Germany's reunification and played a significant part in the liberation of central and eastern European countries from the Soviet yoke and their subsequent entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. The epicentre of Soviet power, Russia under Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid-1980s began to look West, helping to precipitate the fall of the Berlin Wall. A new divide seems to be opening up between researchers in the East and West.

It was the global symbol of the division between East and West, for the battle between communism and capitalism: the Berlin Wall, erected by the dictatorship of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), better known as East Germany, in 1961. Surrounded by a 155-kilometer-long (96.3-mile-long) guarded border of concrete and barbed wire, citizens in the Berlin's West sector lived in an island of freedom in the middle of the communist GDR. And over the decades, many East Germans looked to the unreachable West in desperate longing, hoping they might one day escape. The Berlin Wall: A city torn in two Barbed wire divides Berlin East German authorities began patrolling the inner-German border in 1952. The Berlin Wall: A city torn in two The day the wall went up In 1961, communist East Germany was having trouble keeping its young, educated population from emigrating to the West.

The Berlin Wall: A city torn in two Escape atempt This famous photo from September 1961 shows a woman trying to escape East Berlin through an apartment block where one side of the building faced the West. The Berlin Wall: A city torn in two Fall of the Wall Amidst mounting internal and international pressure, a mistaken announcement by an East German official on November 9, 1989 led to the wall being opened. New openings were made in the wall, like here at Potsdamer Platz two days later. The Berlin Wall: A city torn in two East Side Gallery Today, some parts of the Berlin Wall still stand as a memorial to hard-won freedoms. The famous East Side Gallery allows different artists from around the world to add murals to the part of the wall that remains on Mühlenstrasse in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.

At least 140 people were shot dead by East German border guards at the wall from 1961 to 1989. That all changed in an instant on November 9, 1989, when a new East German travel policy was announced at a press conference live on state TV. The law announced that — effective immediately — all East German citizens were free to travel to the West. Thousands of people ran straight to the guarded border crossings in the heart of Berlin, which would be opened just hours later. The images of people celebrating together on both sides of the border flashed across the world, poignantly marking the end of German division.

free battle

Less than a year later, on October 3, 1990, the country, divided into East and West after World War II, was once again unified. Axel Klausmeier, director of the Berlin Wall Foundation, said Gorbachev's policies of "glasnost" (openness) and "perestroika" (reform) were a clear break from the Brezhnev doctrine — a policy that aimed to ensure that Warsaw Pact countries (the Soviet Union and its satellites) would not diverge from the political course set out by the Kremlin. With Gorbachev, said Klausmeier, suddenly there was a new policy: "No matter what happens in our socialist brother countries, these states are responsible for themselves." The Soviet decision not to march into Poland, Hungary or East Germany as calls for democratic reform grew louder and louder was a decidedly different approach than in decades past. Before Gorbachev, calls for freedom in the Eastern Bloc had been brutally crushed by the Soviets: in East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956 and the former Czechoslovakia in 1968. Discontent, and subsequent pressure on the reform-averse East German government, grew by the day. Send Facebook google+ Whatsapp Tumblr linkedin stumble Digg reddit Newsvine Permalink What remains of the Berlin Wall? A few days later, the head of the East German state and general secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), Erich Honecker, was forced from power and replaced by Egon Krenz, who signaled a willingness to meet with civil rights activists. Soon after, on November 4, Berlin's Alexanderplatz became the site of the largest demonstration in the country's history. Five days later, on November 9, 1989, it was Schabowski who announced East Germany's new travel policy. © Photograph by Jana Cavojska, SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images Visitors snap selfies in front of the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall that's now adorned with murals. When the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, it was due in part to newly issued regulations on travel. As protests had escalated in communist East Berlin, the government responded by easing some border restrictions. "The difference between a place like New York and Berlin is that New York is settled, while Berlin is seething," says photographer Harald Hauswald, whose images of East Berlin in November 1989 captured a state poised to topple as residents took sledgehammers to the wall. Today the best known places to meet Berlin's Cold War ghosts are also among its most touristy haunts: the East Side Gallery, where a mural-clad stretch of the Berlin Wall remains, and Checkpoint Charlie (skip the latter). To understand the magnitude of how this barrier came to cleave families, a city, and two worlds, head to the nearly mile-long outdoor Berlin Wall Memorial, where escape tunnels are marked, a shoot-to-kill watchtower in the wall's former "Death Strip" still stands, and a memorial honors those who died trying to flee the East. Next to the Friedrichstrasse subway, historical videos and the original passport control booths at the Tränenpalast ("palace of tears") border crossing station show where East Berliners said goodbye to loved ones returning to the West. The East Side Gallery, with 101 murals splashed across a still standing section of the Berlin Wall, is the world's largest and longest open-air gallery. Berlin may not be Bavaria, but you can find dozens of outdoor beer gardens sprinkled around the city and open year-round. Housed in a former East Berlin power station, Berghain may be the world's most hallowed techno club.