Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

2 May: Hungary dismantles border

Hungarian border guards cut a hole in the border fence along Hungary's border with Austria
Taking down Hungary's border fence was to have far-reaching consequences.


On 2 May, Hungarian soldiers began to dismantle the barbed wire and electric fencing along Hungary's border with neighbouring Austria.

The communist governments of East Germany, Romania, and Czechoslovakia were furious. They feared that their own citizens would use this gap in the Iron Curtain to flee to the West. But Moscow did nothing.

A spokesman for the Hungarian Interior Ministry, explained: "Not only do we need the world, but the world needs us. An era will be closed with the removal of this fence, and we hope that such systems will never be needed again."

The previous year, under pressure at home from reformers, the government had lifted many of the restrictions on Hungarians travelling abroad.

Budapest sought to reassure East Germany that it would not allow a flood of refugees to use Hungary as a gateway to the West. It was a pledge Hungary was unable to keep.

Between early May and the end of July, several hundred East Germans went to Hungary, ostensibly on holiday, and then crossed over into Austria.

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