|The Story of the
Section 1 Germany and Berlin at the End of WWII
Section 2 In the Beginning Was the Lie
Section 3 The Cruel Border
Section 4 Checkpoint Charlie
Section 5 Breakthrough -- Part One
Section 6 The Wall
Section 7 Breakthrough -- Part Two
Section 8 The Wall between Concrete, Art and the Exchange of Agents
Section 9 The Brandenburg Gate
"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Ronald Reagan, June 12, 1987
The Final Breakthrough
At 6:00 P.M. on November 9, 1989, an international press conference began in East Berlin. The uncertainties about the future development of the GDR were great. For months, thousands of East German citizens had been fleeing to the West just as they had done before the wall was built. Hungary and Czechoslovakia were frequently the way stations. Massive demonstrations against political repression had broken out first in Leipzig, then in all major cities of the GDR, including East Berlin. The most pressing demand was for freedom of travel. The reform movements in the East Bloc, particularly in the Soviet Union and then Poland, had now spread to the GDR. Just two days earlier, on November 7, the old leaders of the SED had resigned.
As the press conference ended, the SED spokesperson announced that the citizens of the GDR were allowed to travel wherever they wished, even to the West. Two hours afterwards, a night of almost unimaginable joy and drama commenced in Berlin. Millions celebrated the reunion, with the flow of people going from East to West this time. Whether on foot or with the GDR's compact car known as the Trabant, the citizens of East Germany arrived to test their right to cross the border.
The five-foot-thick wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate became a meeting place, especially for young people from both parts of the city. The next morning, the incredible impressions of the wall's opening continued such as with the lone young man who climbed the Brandenburg Gate and gazed expectantly to the East. At this spot a few days before he would have been shot at. Other examples were witnessed at Checkpoint Charlie, which was utterly swamped by the flood of people. The dominance of the East German border guards was over. Bewildered, they drifted with the current.
With the opening of the border, the demolition of the wall commenced. As early as the night of November 9, masses of mostly young people equipped with hammers and chisels took the opportunity to begin tearing down the hated bulwark around the Brandenburg Gate. Over time, they were followed by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world who continued the work as "wall peckers." The official demolition of the Berlin wall began on June 13, 1990, by former East German border guards under a democratically elected government. It was no coincidence that the first slab to be removed was at the corner of Bernauer Straße and Ackerstraße, the very symbol of the cruel border. Even allied troops of the West helped take down the fortifications in order to overcome the organizational division of the city as quickly as possible. The segments removed from the wall landed in large depots situated around Berlin and were recycled for use in road construction.
In agreement with the federal German government and the Berlin Senate, the German Historical Museum has elaborated a concept to preserve the traces of the past in a memorial. To be erected on Bernauer Strasse, it will exhibit a restored section of the original border strip. As the wall was being torn down, the process of unifying the two German states began against a backdrop of global changes, most of all in the relation between the two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. On September 12, 1990, the four victorious powers of World War II signed the Treaty of Moscow. The new Germany was granted full sovereignty, and the Cold War era was declared over. Checkpoint Charlie, the outpost of freedom, had fulfilled its function and was taken away. From now on, October 3, 1990, serves as a national holiday, the Day of German Unity.