25 years ago on Nov. 9, 1989, the barrier separating East from West Berlin was torn down for good.
The Berlin Wall was constructed in August 1961 in an attempt to stop Germans from fleeing the communist rooted in East Berlin. The more “official purpose” was to keep the so-called Western Berlin “fascists” from entering East Berlin so that they would not undermine the socialist state. In West Berlin the Wall was commonly called the Wall of Shame. The falling of the wall in 1989 became a powerful symbol for the ending of the 28 year long Cold War.
To commemorate this milestone anniversary, 8,000 white helium balloons were released into the night sky over Germany’s capital. The glowing balloons traced the entire span of the Wall. Each balloon was released one by one to highlight the disappearance of the wall. German Chancellor Angela Merkel led the celebrations and she stated that the anniversary marked a true example of humans yearning for freedom. Merkel was quoted by CBS stating that, “The fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true. Nothing has to stay the way it is, however big the hurdles are.”
Why Nov. 9 1989? The fall of the Wall was the climax of weeks of protesting that had been occurring due to changes that were already taken place in Eastern Europe. In Sept. of 1989, more than 13,000 East Germans escaped through Hungary into Austria. This flee sparked a chain of events as soon after, the Hungarians began to prevent more East Germans from trying to cross the border. Then on Oct. 18, 1989, Erich Honecker, the longtime leader of East Germany resigned and was replaced by Egon Krenz. Before resigning, Honecker had predicted that the wall would stand for another 50 or 100 more years, little did he know, it would not even stand for another month. East Germans were outraged by this prediction and a set of protests broke out in September 1989. The East Germans were protesting that they wanted to move to the West and so this string of protests was the start of the “Peace Revolution,” conducted by East Germany.
The protests grew by November of 1989 as the movement neared its height on Nov. 4 when nearly half a million people gathered at a rally for the Alexanderplatz demonstration, that was rallying for a change in East Berlin’s larges transportation hub and public square. Simultaneously, East Germans found a new way into Austria via Czechoslovakia. It was then decided on Nov. 9 that refugees would be allowed to exit directly from East to West Germany through the crossing points of the Wall. The news was broadcasted and immediately East Germans flocked to the various six checkpoints of the Wall. By 10:45pm that historic night, the guards of the Wall were ordered to open all the checkpoints and allow people through with little to no identity checking. Berlin had become one again. Each anniversary showcases the importance of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, as it truly is the defining symbol of the beginning of the end of the Cold War to this day.