25 Years after the Wall

20 Nov 2023
As the dictatorships in Eastern Europe crumbled one by one between 1989 and 1991, one event stood out as the symbol for this dramatic turn of fate for Europe and the world: the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989.  East Germany wasn't the first country to push its ageing communists aside nor was it the last. But the pace of change here was so fast, and the opening of the deadly border that split the city for 28 years was so unexpected, that it surprised the most knowledgeable of experts.
The actual event leading to crowds of East Germans streaming across the border was a moment of unintended comedy; Communist Party spokesman Günter Schabowski slipped up during a press conference on the evening of 9 November in which he announced the suspension of travel restrictions, saying this would take effect immediately. Border guards along the Wall were surprised by the growing crowds and eventually locked away their weapons and opened the border gates to avoid escalation – essentially signalling the end of the East German state.

Several places in Berlin can be visited to learn more about the Berlin Wall and see some of the remains; most important is the official memorial on Bernauer Strasse, where a newly renovated information centre overlooks an original part of the death strip. See elsewhere in this guide for other Wall-related sights and museums.

It's easy to forget how much progress was made since those joyful days in November 1989; West-Berlin was an over-subsidised and unsustainable half-city, while in East Berlin both the society and the city centres were crumbling away. It took decades for the two Berlins to grow together again, and only now that the traces of the Wall become ever more faint, and as West Berlin enjoys increased attention, that we can start to say the city is truly reunited. For those who remember 1989, it's odd to imagine that in the meantime a new generation of Berliners who were born after this event has grown up. And in just 3 years, the Wall will have been gone just as long as it once divided this city. Berliners have no doubt that the Wall won't be forgotten soon. 


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