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This Day In History: Nov. 9, the fall of the Berlin Wall

Citizens of East and West Berlin celebrate the fall of The Berlin Wall.

Citizens of East and West Berlin celebrate the fall of The Berlin Wall.

Naomi Saegusa, Staff Writer

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The fall of the Berlin Wall

Nov 9, 1989 marks the day that Guenter Schabowski, the head of The East German Communist Party, announced the freedom of the citizens of East and West Berlin, so that they could pass across the border at will.

The Berlin Wall was created in the Cold War which spanned through the years of 1947 to 1991.

The Cold War

The Cold War developed from the tensions surrounding the United States and the Soviet Union, (and in turn each other’s allies) after World War II.

The first major conflict in the war was the “Berlin Blockade.” The Blockade was an attempt by the Soviet forces to barricade West Berlin against all trade and restrict the United States, France and Great Britain from traveling to their districts in Berlin.

The blockade backfired when the people of West Berlin began to panic about the impending shortage of basic supplies such as food, water and medicine. The panic prompted the American forces and it’s allied powers to pull off one of the most exceptional logistical efforts in history. Just two days after the blockade went into effect, the United States began airlifting massive amounts of supplies into West Berlin. By the end of the airlift, The United States and its allies had paid an estimated $224 million to $500 million in fuel, food, and other miscellaneous supplies.

When all was said and done, The Soviets had successfully barricaded West Berlin for roughly a year. The barricade started June 24, 1948, and didn’t officially end until May 12, 1949.

Tensions rose in 1958 as citizens of East Berlin began to flock by the thousands toward West Berlin. About three million refugees had left East Berlin since the barricade between East and West had gone down, most were young educated workers.

Aug. 12, 1961 over 2,400 individuals crossed over the Berlin border, the largest number of people that had ever left in a single day. In response to the flood of people leaving across the border, Premier Nikita Khrushchev approved East Germany to close its borders and stop people from leaving once and for all.

The East side of the wall was guarded with trained dogs, tripwire machine guns and soldiers patrolling 24/7 with explicit orders to shoot any escapees on sight. Floodlights swept across the yards and a long strip of soft sand affectionately called the “Death Strip” was used to show the footprints of those attempting to escape.

Within the duration of the Berlin wall being up, roughly 5,000 people snuck over successfully, while more than 170 people were killed in their attempts to cross. Families and friends were separated from each other, with no way of knowing if they would ever see their loved ones again.

The fall of the Berlin Wall

“Only today is the war really over””

— Anonymous, on the Berlin Wall

It wasn’t until Nov. 9, 1989 that the wall finally came down.

Originally the East Berlin Government had decided to appease protesters by saying that sometime in the future, there would be more relaxed restrictions on travel between East and West. The plan was that every East Berlin citizen would be allowed to have a passport, something that hadn’t been available to the people before.
However, due to a mistake by the newly appointed head of The East German Communist Party, Guenter Schabowski, the wall was instead torn down that very night.

When Schabowski was asked by a reporter when the laws and travel restrictions would go into effect he looked down at his papers in confusion before answering that, “[The lax regulation] comes into effect, according to my information, immediately.”

That night over two million individuals from East Berlin flooded the gates to join the people of West Berlin in celebration. Beer and champagne were passed around by the euphoric citizens, while bulldozers and cranes came to knock down each of the sections one by one. People spent the rest of the night celebrating, using hammers and picks to knock away their own personal chunks of the wall as souvenirs.

Journalist Timothy Garton wrote that, “Everyone has seen the pictures of joyful celebration in West Berlin, the vast crowds stopping the traffic on the Kurfürstendamm, Sekt corks popping, perfect strangers tearfully embracing— [The fall of the Berlin Wall] was the greatest street party in the history of the world.”

The aftermath of the Berlin Wall

East and West Germany weren’t officially reunited until Oct. 3, 1990, almost an entire year after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Berlin Wall is remembered today as a powerful symbol of the Cold War and as a representation of the fall of communism in Europe.

To many, the fall of The Berlin Wall represented Europe’s second chance to achieve peace and democracy.

“The Wall was not brought down by Washington, Bonn or Moscow. It was razed to the ground by the courageous and intrepid people, from both the East and the West,” said Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

All information and facts are attributed to these websites: 

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Cold War.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 27 July 2018, www.britannica.com/event/Cold-War.
Editors, History.com. “Berlin Wall.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Aug. 2018, www.history.com/topics/cold-war/berlin-wall.
Ash, Timothy Garton. “The German Revolution.” The New York Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, 21 Dec. 1989, www.nybooks.com/articles/1989/12/21/the-german-revolution/.
Museum, Cold War. “The Cold War Museum.” Cold War Museum, 10 Apr. 2016, www.coldwar.org/articles/40s/berlin_blockade.asp.
Editors, History.com. “Soviets Blockade West Berlin.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 21 Aug. 2018, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/soviets-blockade-west-berlin.
Johnstone, Alexander. “The Berlin Wall – the 10 Most Famous Quotes about the Barrier.” The Local, The Local, 9 Nov. 2016, www.thelocal.de/20161109/ten-famous-quotes-about-the-berlin-wall-9-november-anniversary.
About the Writer
Naomi Saegusa, Staff Writer

Naomi Saegusa is a senior, and this is her second year on staff. She enjoys playing the drums and reading. When she gets older, she would like to own a small bookstore. Naomi can be contacted at nsaegusa006@rsdmo.org.

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This Day In History: Nov. 9, the fall of the Berlin Wall