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1989: Berliners celebrate the fall of the Wall

VIDEO : The Berlin Wall comes down

The Berlin Wall has been breached after nearly three decades keeping East and West Berliners apart.

At midnight East Germany's Communist rulers gave permission for gates along the Wall to be opened after hundreds of people converged on crossing points.

They surged through cheering and shouting and were be met by jubilant West Berliners on the other side.

Ecstatic crowds immediately began to clamber on top of the Wall and hack large chunks out of the 28-mile (45-kilometre) barrier.

It had been erected in 1961 on the orders of East Germany's former leader Walter Ulbricht stop people leaving for West Germany.

Since 1949 about 2.5 million people had fled East Germany.

After 1961, the Wall and other fortifications along the 860-mile (1,380-kilometre) border shared by East and West Germany have kept most East Germans in.

Many of those attempting to escape have been shot dead by border guards.

Exodus

The first indication that change was imminent came earlier today when East Berlin's Communist party spokesman, Gunther Schabowski, announced East Germans would be allowed to travel directly to West Germany.

The move was intended to stem an exodus into West Germany through the "back door" which began last summer when the new and more liberal regime in Hungary opened its border.

The flow of migrants was intensified last week when Czechoslovakia also granted free access to West Germany through its border.

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has hailed the decision to open the Wall as "historic" and called for a meeting with East German leader, Egon Krenz.

In Context
The opening of the Berlin Wall was preceded by a series of momentous events in East Germany.

They included the removal of the country's hardline Communist leader, Erich Honecker, and the resignation of the entire cabinet.

East Germany's new leader, Egon Krenz, called for free democratic elections.

But it was not enough to turn the tide and once the Berlin Wall was breached, East Germany disintegrated.

On 3 October 1990 the two Germanys merged to form a new united country.

In 1997 Egon Krenz received a six-and-a-half year jail sentence for the manslaughter of people killed by border guards when trying to escape to the West.


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