What Led Up To The Fall Of The Berlin Wall | A Crazy Confluence Of Events

Sometimes truth is more fascinating than fiction and the crazy confluence of events that led up to the fall of the Berlin wall is without a doubt one of those times. I was relatively young when this happened and honestly didn’t understand the details. I visited Berlin and decided to do some research. What I leaned really surprised me. In talking to some friends, I also realized that not many others knew either.

What Led Up to The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

What led Up To The Fall Of The Berlin Wall: Misinformation

The fall started the night of November 9, 1989. Günter Schabowski, an official for the Socialist Unity Party Of Germany and Soviet Politburo, announced via a televised press conference, that the ability to travel through Wall checkpoints was ‘immediate’. In reality Mikhail S. Gorbachev was planning future changes to allow select travel, requiring a lengthy visa application process.

What led Up To The Fall Of The Berlin Wall: Enthusiasm & Joy

Upon hearing the announcement, thousands started swarming to the gates. Some arrive just in their nightclothes, to cross on that cold, November night in 1989.

What led Up To The Fall Of The Berlin Wall: Defiance & Uncertainty

A formerly loyal Stasi guard, Harald Jäger, was in charge of the Bornholmer Street checkpoint that night and the crowds were growing. Harald secretly joined a call where orders to keep the gates closed were reinforced by superiors where he heard himself being insulted as incompetent. Frustrated by this comment and possibly emboldened by the fact that he was to find out soon the results of cancer testing, he told his subordinates to let people though.

What led Up To The Fall Of The Berlin Wall: Chain Reaction

The other checkpoints immediately followed suit and started opening their gates. A night that could have ended in bloodshed, ended in peace. Amazing, right?

Did you know?

Angela Merkel, the last Chancellor of Germany, was one of the thousands that crossed the wall that night?

The Berlin Wall

It happened virtually overnight in 1961, separating families and friends for 28 years!

After Germany’s defeat in WWII, the country was divided into two sides. Soviet Russia managed the east side of Germany, while the three Allies, the USA, Britain, and France, managed the west. The capital, Berlin, on the east side, was similarly divided.  

Of course, there are two sides as to why the wall was built. According to the Allies, it was built to stop the massive migration from Soviet Russia occupied East Berlin to the Allied occupied West Berlin for economic and political reasons (almost 2 million had migrated before the wall was built). According to the Soviets, it was built to keep out westerners and their spies.

Patrolled with guns and dogs by the Soviets, many, many people, sadly, lost their lives trying to cross.

Today, 33 years later, several sections of the wall remain in the form of remembrance, as part of a museum, and as an open air art gallery. To learn more, visit the Topography of Terror in Berlin.

Topography of a Terror Museum and Wall Section

To read more about Berlin, see my posts on the Top Things To See In Berlin, and Is Berlin the Coolest City in Europe?

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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