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The fall of the Berlin Wall - November 9, 1989

On the evening of that day, the spokesman for the GDR government, Günter Schabowski, accidentally announced that GDR citizens could travel t...



On the evening of that day, the spokesman for the GDR government, Günter Schabowski, accidentally announced that GDR citizens could travel to the West, heralding the beginning of the end of the GDR.

This prime-time television press conference is one of the most memorable in the history of the continent. Due to a misunderstanding, Günter Schabowski answered an Italian journalist's question as to when the new GDR travel law that he had just announced would apply, with the now famous sentence: "As far as I know ... it will happen immediately, immediately." Since this press conference was broadcast live and followed in both West and East Germany, the effect of this slip of the tongue had global political effects.

After the opening of the border, a Berliner extends his hand to two border officials

Because immediately afterward, GDR citizens made a pilgrimage to the inner-German border in Berlin to visit the western part of the city. The border guards, who had not been informed of the new rules, withstood the onslaught for three hours. At the latest when "Westfernsehen" had set up its cameras and confirmed the sensational news, it was clear that that night the division of Germany, which had existed since the Wall was built on August 21, 1961, had come to an end. On the late evening of November 9, 1989, the border officials gave up their resistance, opened the Berlin border crossings and left people without any serious controls from east to west and vice versa.

"We are the people!"

Thousands of GDR citizens had taken to the streets for months and loudly called for political reforms. Especially the "Monday demonstrations" in the streets of Leipzig had become famous. The protesters chanted "We are the people!" and appealed with "Gorbi! Gorbi!" - Calls to the General Secretary of the Soviet CPSU, Mikhail Gorbachev. Since 1985 he has carried out reforms in the Soviet Union.

The people in the GDR wanted to see his new policy implemented. But the government under Erich Honecker's unwillingness to reform prevented that and provoked its own demise. Erich Honecker was replaced by Egon Krenz in the office of Secretary-General and Chairman of the State Council on October 18, 1989. But even that could not stop the fall of the GDR. On November 4th, around half a million people protested in East Berlin's Alexanderplatz for the reform of the state. With this powerful demonstration, it became clear that the new government had not gained the trust of the people either. The wall was opened five days later, and at the same time the voices calling for a merger of the two German states became louder.

German unity and European integration

A few weeks after the opening of the Berlin Wall and the increasingly loud calls for German reunification, shortly before Christmas 1989 there was lively travel diplomacy to the GDR.

Joy after opening the wall

France and Great Britain in particular distrust a large and economically strong Germany in the middle of the European continent. They tried, if not to prevent the union of the Federal Republic with the GDR, at least to attach political conditions. Chancellor Helmut Kohl took these concerns into account on December 19, 1989, when, in a speech in front of the ruins of the Dresden Frauenkirche, which received much attention around the world, he declared, on the one hand, to respect the will of the GDR citizens - no matter what it is. On the other hand, Helmut Kohl admitted that evening that German unity could only be possible in "a European house". German and European unity are two sides of the same coin.

Nevertheless, French President Francois Mitterand traveled to the GDR two days later to prevent the GDR from "annexing" the Federal Republic. At the beginning of 1990, the process of the unification of the two German states was embedded in an international process that took into account the interests of the Germans as well as those of the allied victorious powers of the Second World War.

The conditions for German unity were worked out in a German-German negotiation process. At the same time, the two German states negotiated with the four victorious powers on the foreign policy aspects of the unification of the two states. This “2 plus 4” process ended with Germany's declaration of sovereignty on September 12, 1990, in the “2 plus 4” treaty. In the German-German unification treaty on August 31, 1990, those aspects were regulated that affected the relationship between the two German states. On October 3, 1990, the states of the now-former GDR joined the Federal Republic of Germany. The GDR had thus dissolved and joined the Federal Republic.