05 March 2015

1989: The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

Thinking about 1989 the other night, two events sprang into my mind, followed by a whole battalion of others. I haven't much time, so I'll just toddle through the first two here...

The first of the 1989 events that came to mind when I focused the little grey cells on that memorable twelve months, was the invention of the World Wide Web by English software engineer Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in Switzerland.

This event passed unnoticed by the vast majority of us at the time - we would not discover its wonderful, world-altering significance until the 1990s. Read all about it here.

The second event to trot into my noddle was the Fall of the Berlin Wall...

An absolutely stunning historical moment...

Here's how the
Daily Mirror reported events on Saturday, November 11, 1989:


on the day the world became a better, braver place...

Holes were bulldozed in the Berlin Wall and East Germany promised free elections yesterday as thousands of her citizens continued to pour out to the West.

Minutes after the election announcement, East German bulldozers began smashing two more holes as exit points in the wall. And eight more border crossings will be made next week.

For the Communists it is a calculated gamble in an attempt to stem an exodus. For the East German people, already almost delirious with the pace of change, it is another giant step to freedom.

The East German Communist Party unveiled an amazing package of reforms, including free elections, changes in the economy and parliamentary control over the army.

This revolutionary programme means party bosses have now given thousands of demonstrators everything they demanded during peaceful candlelit protests.

They knew that East Germany's 16 million people would never have halted the protests unless free elections were granted.

Yesterday the East Germans were walking and driving through the Wall at the rate of 800 an hour, sounding their car horns and weeping with emotion.

For some, however, the dizzying pace was almost too much. The East German guards did not know quite how to react to the West German who stretched out the hand of friendship near the Checkpoint Charlie crossing.

But for the families who were crossing into West Berlin all day there were no doubts. They came, they saw... and they fell in love with the capitalist world they had for so long been taught to distrust.

With the toys in the shops - the Batman cars, the walking, talking, living dolls, the video games, the mountain bikes.

With the clothes. The baby wear. The range of cars.

But, most of all, with the overflowing shelves in the supermarkets.
For many who are younger than the 28-year-old wall, it was their first day of freedom. Their lives have been dominated by secrecy and shortages.

Their first taste of Western plenty was a free handout.

Police and savings banks told excited East Germans who wanted to go shopping the way to social security offices.

There they were given 100 West German marks - worth about £35 - in "welcome money."

Gunter Martin, a factory worker from Halle, waved a wad of East German marks and said: "This is completely useless to me here.

"It's the most unbelievable day of my life. I just shut up my car repair shop and jumped in my car as fast as I could."

Reinhold Haupt, a 41-year-old electrician who drove from Ashersleben to spend the weekend in West, was showered with hospitality by a crowd of West Germans giving the new arrivals a heroes' welcome.

Within minutes someone offered him a bed, another said he would take him on a tour, a third handed him a cup of coffee and a woman pressed a 10-mark note into his hand.

He spent his "welcome money" on bananas, oranges, coffee and chocolate, all in short supply in East Germany.

Civil servant Thomas Kolbar said: "I turned up at my aunt's house last night and she nearly died of shock."

The Communists' gamble may pay off. Most East Germans are only visiting the West, happily returning home after partying or sight-seeing in the West.

No one could count the numbers going to the West in Berlin. But elsewhere, 45,000 East Germans swarmed to the West yesterday and only 2,500 stayed.

More from 1989 soon.

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