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1989: The night the Wall came down

The 28-mile (45 km) barrier dividing Germany's capital was built in 1961 to prevent East Berliners fleeing to the West.

But as Communism in the Soviet Republic and Eastern Europe began to crumble, pressure mounted on the East German authorities to open the Berlin border.

The Wall was finally breached by jubilant Berliners on 9 November 1989, unifying a city that had been divided for over 30 years.

Some of you were in Berlin the night The Wall came down and sent your stories:

I was in Berlin on 9 November 1989. I was a US Army intelligence officer working for Allied Forces.

We heard on the TV that some border points had opened and I left my wife and young daughter to see what was going on at Check Point Charlie.

Arriving at the checkpoint there was a large crowd on the Western side.

Climbing a fence I could see large numbers of people on the Eastern side.

At about that time there was an announcement that East Germans would be allowed to visit the West but would require a stamp which would be issued the following morning.


" The feeling in the air was electric, as if some great force had been let loose "

Joseph, Portugal

Thinking that the East Germans would obey this order, I went home, also feeling a bit guilty for having left my wife home alone with the baby. The rest is history.

The next morning I was screening scores of East Germans who had come over from the GDR, including soldiers who had deserted.

Over the next few weeks the feeling in the air was electric, as if some great force had been let loose, perhaps the greatest example of positive [collective] human will ever seen, in my mind the opposite of what happened in the summer of 1914 - a real peaceful revolution.

We thought it was going to change the world.
Joseph, Portugal

I was 14 when I first went to Berlin and the wall was still firmly in place.

I was staying with family friends who wanted to show me the beauty of West Berlin but I was intent on seeing "the wall".

I remember pressing my hand against it and marvelling that it was only bricks and mortar but was symbolic of years of terror and intimidation.

Years later I watched that wall being dismantled by East and West Berliners and wept with joy for their liberation and with utter desolation for those who had died so meaninglessly.
Sharsh, UK

I was 13 at that time and didn't realise what was going to happen on the 9th of November.

We lived at the end of Sonnenalle in the west, where a checkpoint was to cross to the east.

The wall was right behind our back garden. We went to bed as usual and got woken up by our mom at some point of the night. The first thing I noticed was loud cheering.

I got up to look out the window and just saw people running past, jumping up and down and crying and laughing.

For weeks after the 9th people would stand by the gates and cheer on every Trabbi (East German car) that came through to the west.

It was an amazing event to have witnessed and I still can't believe this happened right outside of our house. I will never forget that night.
Zarina, UK

I was living in West Berlin when the wall came down, though I had family in the East who I frequently visited.

On that very day I had been over to the East to visit my aunt.

I was picked up for the return journey by a British friend who worked for an embassy in the East but lived in the West.

We joined the normal "diplomatic" traffic jam at Freidrichstrasse border point (Checkpoint Charlie) little realising that within hours things would change for ever.


" Everyone scrambled to get to a TV or radio or even down to the checkpoints to see what was happening "

David Kreikmeier, UK

In fact I suddenly realised I had forgotten to submit requests for entry visas to the DDR for some friends who were arriving in Berlin that coming weekend - normally you needed to do this at least three days in advance.

My friend suggested I speak with the border officer who usually dealt with the diplomatic traffic as she knew both of us quite well and things were becoming rather chaotic anyway with regard to the usually stringent border regulations.

To my suprise after pondering for a few seconds she simply issued the visas saying, "Why not - the world's going mad anyway."

Flabbergasted at this easy going and untypical attitude I could only say "Thanks, thanks a lot... you've been really helpful." To which she replied "Oh, you can buy me a coffee at the Kranzler .... if I ever get over there" (ie to West Berlin).

This was about 6pm - at least an hour before Schabowski's TV appeareance and casual comments that were to end the border regulations as we had known them for 28 years.

My friend then dropped me off at the Eddinger Cafe on the K'damm where I met up with my parents for dinner.

As we got to the main course a woman was wandering up and down outside shouting: "Die Mauer ist gefallt! Die Mauer ist gefallt!"

Everyone thought she was mad or having a mental breakdown - then suddenly the kitchen staff burst out of the kitchen and started saying the same thing.

Everyone scrambled to get to a TV or radio or even down to the checkpoints to see what was happening.

I can and will always remember though the raw emotion, the crowds, the chaos (and especially the drink that was drunk and the grass that was smoked that night!).

Ironically the social divisions and the psychological "wall in the head" that many of us feel mean that my Eastern relatives (like most Ossies) rarely visit West Berlin anyway.

Even worse, the sense of "solidarity" and "family duty" that used to impel many Wessies to use every opportunity to visit relatives in the East has vanished too.

I know that my family is not the only one that meets each other less frequently now that there is nothing to stop us than when the Wall was up!
David Kreikmeier, UK

I just happened to watch television on the night of 9 November, as I lived and worked for an American Charter Airline in Berlin. As I watched what was being televised, I decided that along with my daughter who happened to be visiting me at the time, we should go there to see what was happening.

When we got there, with the help of other people, we were able to climb up on to the wall and watch Vopos (Volks Polizei) standing about 10 yards apart being engaged in dialog by some intellectuals on the wall.

Suddenly, there was some enormous sound, which turned out to be some construction labourers hammering at the wall with some heavy equipment, which I could not see.

Being afraid at what the reaction might be from the East German army, we decided to get down and return home and watch the proceedings from the television.
Michael Nicholson, USA

I was living in Germany on the day the wall came down and well remember talking to my German neighbour.

With tears streaming down his face he kept saying in English and German: "I never thought I would live to see this."
Malcolm Harrison, Canada


" We handed out flowers... to all people crossing from the East "

Richard Price, UK

I was fortunate enough to be there on the very day that the wall came down. My father was stationed at RAF Gatow in West Berlin, and I was attending the base Primary School, Gatow First School.

I was in school on the day that it was announced that the borders were open, and everyone in the school was put on a bus, and taken to a nearby border crossing point. There we handed out flowers, provided by the RAF Base commander, to all people crossing from the East.

The vast majority of people crossing were not actually going anywhere, they just wanted to cross to see if it was really true, and most stopped just after the border on the west side, which is where we handed them flowers.

I remember one woman, crying her eyes out and hugging us all, saying something in German. When our German teacher translated, we understood why she was crying. Her son had been killed trying to escape East Germany just a year previously.
Richard Price, UK

For anyone, who didn't experience the Wall, it will be hard to imagine what an overwhelming feeling of relief, of joy, of unreality filled one that this monster was dead, and people had conquered it.

The years of degrading searches at border crossings, the loved ones, who were walled in on the eastern side.


" An overwhelming feeling of relief, of joy, of unreality filled one that this monster was dead, and people had conquered it "

Richard Pinard

The GDR's restrictions, regulations, bureaucratic border formalities, the dogs and soldiers with machine guns, the main streets cut off suddenly by this cold, hard cement wall - all of this was suddenly defeated, and one could dance on its dead body or chip off a piece of it with a hammmer.

Just days before, either action might have meant arrest or even being shot. I tell you, it was a giddy, delirious feeling - even for someone completely sober.

I moved to the eastern edge of the Wall and sat down with my feet dangling into East Berlin.

I chatted with a 19-year-old East German boy from the countryside of Thuringia. He asked me to describe the skyscrapers of New York. I tried, but eventually told him: "You have to see it yourself. And now you can."

The next day, I returned to Potsdamer Platz.

The Mauer-Spechte (Wall-Woodpeckers) were already well at work chipping away at it. In a few places, they had even broken through the cement.

I was quite fit and in my late 20's at the time, and when one guy put down a large sledge-hammer-like pole, I asked, if I could borrow it. He let me and I started bashing the Wall.

A group of people formed around me and started clapping rhythmically. Variously sized bits of cement chipped off and fell. Someone took a piece and gave it to - at that time former - West Berlin Mayor Diepgen, who happened to be passing by.

I kept on as long as I could, then gave the pole. Walked over to a curb stone. Sat down and wept.

After a bit, some young East Germans, who had just passed through the Wall, came up to me and asked: "Which way to KaDeWe?" (the famous Berlin department store). This question was somehow discordant and shocking. I thought: "You've just been released from 44 years of communist oppression, and you want to go shopping?"
Richard Pinard, USA/Czech Republic

I was living and working in West Germany when this all happened. I still remember vividly my German neighbour saying to me (with tears running freely), "I never dreamt I would live to see this day".
M. Harrison, Canada

I was in East Berlin and East Germany in February 1989 and later that year in Hungary. I was told repeatedly by East Germans I met, that the "Wall" would come down soon. I thought they were being a little over optimistic to say the least.


" Everybody in the East knew what was coming "

Rob, USA

What amazed me in November 1989, and amazes me to this day, is how everybody in the East knew what was coming and was pushing harder and harder to bring the day closer when they would be free.

Simultaneously the West in general and the intelligence and diplomatic services in particular did not believe it would happen and were stunned when they woke up on 10 November 1989. I was in London that day and I cried as I realized that people I had met a few months earlier, who had lived all there lives under one tyrant or another, would now be free.
Rob, USA (then UK)

I was on the Indonesian island of Lombok, staying at Pondok Santai, a wonderful little hideaway on the west coast of Lombok. The place was owned and operated by Tony, a gentle Sumatran and his English wife Pearl.

There was no electricity, so we were depending on the BBC World Service radio broadcasts, listened to on a small battery-run transistor by the light of candles and kerosene lamps.

I remember the broadcasts as the events developed rapidly across Eastern Europe, and the sense of excitement that prevailed in the mixed bag of nationalities that were listening with us. A sense of magic and mystic almost, the polite, flawless voice in the impeccable accent relaying to us the historical events unfolding 10,000 miles away.
Berend van de Seijp, Indonesia

I was on a road journey to visit friends in Poland. We stopped in Berlin and discovered a myriad of TV vans with a huge array of satellite dishes. We continued our journey listening to the World Service.


" You could hear the chipping as many Berliners were trying to breakthrough the wall using anything that came to hand "

Paul Bennett, UK

Although events were unfolding fast throughout Eastern Europe there was no hint of the Wall coming down. On our return journey just a few days later we arrived back in Berlin to witness this most remarkable event.

In the dark you could hear the chipping as many Berliners were trying to breakthrough the wall using anything that came to hand. As we walked beside the Wall we arrived at one of the checkpoints, which was now open.

The atmosphere was electric as the champagne flowed and the Trabant cars came through the gate with their exhausts adding a distinctive smell and haze to that heady night air.

We tried to enter East Berlin but as British passport holders we were refused. It was the start of an odyssey for me leading to being in Timisoara in time for the Romanian Revolution that Christmas and working in Albania a year later - all inspired by the Fall of the Wall.
Paul Bennett, UK

Left and right people were hacking away at the fortification and no one tried to stop them. It seemed right and just even though I was just a nine year old boy with no idea in the world why a wall could be so much trouble.

Now I respect that experience and feel lucky to have been there. I helped to destroy that symbol of fear...I helped carry away the rubble, in my luggage.

I think my dad gave away most of it, even the rock that crashed into the back of my head. I was OK though.
Nicholas Naughton, US

I was living in Berlin at the time of the fall, and it was a very spectacular event.

The entire city shut down as people parked their cars to join in what has to have been one of the largest block parties ever held.

The Berlin U-Bahn looked more like the Tokyo Subway at rush hour, with people packed in like sardines.

At Checkpoint Charley, people were giving bottles of champaigne to the "ossis" as they came across.

There were a lot of tears of joy flowing that evening, and no one could help but feel the emotions that filled the air.

That was an event that will always be with me; one of those monumental times in history that we usually only read about in history books.
Jeff Ashman, US

This is always in my mind as it is my birthday.

I remember watching the unfolding of the Iron Curtain when I was a teenager. Watching people marching for their rights has made a hugh impact on me as I now know what it means to be able to vote for anyone I want.

This should not be forgotten as it changes the life for many even if you were not there. BBC, you did a great [job] as the memories I have are of your coverage -thank you so much.
Paul Bent, Ireland

I visit Germany regularly and in the autumn of 1989 was well aware of the increasing traffic of people trying to get to the West from the East as the borders across the Eastern Zone allowed more access.

However there was the fear and memory of the 1968 Prague Spring. Would the Communists clamp down brutally as they did then?

It was curious - during the November 1989 my German friends often talked in guarded voices about friends in Czechoslovakia. No names were mentioned, only shadowy figures. Then on visiting Germany at Christmas '89 all these people were there free to speak, visit friends and come and go. It was like spell had been broken, nothing would be the same again.
Michael Savage, Scotland

I went to this demonstration as I was living in Berlin at the time.

I thought that there was a real sense of change going to happen. It was wonderful that so many things have finally been spoken out loud.

One really started to hope that things might change for something better.

I now live in the UK and this would not have been possible without the fall of the wall which happened then five days later.

I will always remember these times.
Susanne Nunn, Germany

I remember our school German teacher telling us that he doubted the Berlin Wall would come down in his day, but he hoped it would come down in ours.

Less than a year later, it happened, so unexpectedly.
Leslie Smith, Scotland

Like many others I was working in Berlin when the news came. It took a while to sink in, I think the phrase that was used on the TV announcement was "multiple exit and re-entry visas to be granted".

Simple words for an awesome event. My friend was a teacher at the RAF Gatow school, he decided to bundle the kids on a bus and get them to hand out flowers at the crossing point.

What a great lesson that must have been, to be a part of history instead of reading about it.
Gerry Growney, England

I come from Kiel, the old West Germany and went on a school trip to Berlin in the September 1989, aged 16.

We had one day in the East of Berlin, however other school groups had not been let through.

We saw preparations for a parade to celebrate 40 years of the East, I have never seen so many young people in the same blue overall and yellow scarf.

I took a picture from the west of a piece of wall, it was one of the first to come down just a few weeks later.
Wiebke White, UK

That day I was on a bicycle tour in the UK for the first time and we had been in London for three days.

That morning we had joined a group for a guided tour of the Houses of Pariament with the opening ceremony of the House of Lords in the afternoon and listening to the Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd.

Unfortunately my English was not as good then as it is today so I did not understand everything that was said.

My school-mate wanted to return to Germany at once because he feared there was going to be a war.

However, I was able to convince him that is was better to stay in the UK and continue our bicycle tour. We were both 17 years old then.
Wulf-Dieter Krüger, Thailand

I was 16 living in Romania (still in the darkness) when the wall came down. We learned about it from Radio Free Europe. At this point we were hoping something positive was going to happen in Romania as well.
Christina, US


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