The fall of the Berlin Wall was the first step towards German reunification. The political, economic and social impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall further weakened the already unstable East German government. Germany reunited on 3 October 1990, 11 months after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
But why did the Berlin Wall fall?
Why did the Berlin Wall fall?
As soon as the Berlin Wall was constructed people protested for it to come down. Thousands rallied against its existence, with some even being arrested and imprisoned.
John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America, showed his support to West Berliners in his famous 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech of 1963. But there would be no clear step towards the reunification of Germany so long as the Western Powers and the Soviet Union were in a standoff with each other.
Border relations improved over the next two decades, allowing people to travel from east to west, but on a highly restricted basis. The late 1980s marked a shift. In 1987, American President Ronald Reagan called on Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to 'tear down this wall'. And two years later his successor, George H. W. Bush, pleaded for this again. Asking for 'glasnost', or openness, to be brought to East Berlin.
From September 1989, tens of thousands of East German residents gathered in weekly peaceful marches, known as the 'Monday demonstrations'. They chanted 'down with the wall' and protested against the political regime of the Socialist Unity Party, known as the SED. There was clear message, they wanted free elections, the formation of opposition groups, and the freedom to travel. By November, attendance at these marches had swelled to nearly half a million.
On 9 November 1989 Günter Schabowski, spokesperson for the SED, mistakenly announced at a live press conference that the German Democratic Republic border was open, effective immediately. This caused a media frenzy and a newsflash was broadcast on TV and radio 'GDR opens border'. Within two hours hundreds of people were gathered at checkpoints much to the surprise of the border guards who, after some initial restraint, allowed a steady flow to pass through.
The first checkpoint to open was here, on Bornholmer Straße, where people crossed over the Bösebrücke Bridge behind me. The Berlin Wall had officially fallen and Germany changed forever overnight.
In the early hours of 10 November 1989, thousands of people from both sides of the border gathered here, at the iconic Brandenburg Gate. They stood on top of the Berlin Wall to celebrate the first step in reunification. Some chiseled away at the structure to take pieces as souvenirs, making them known as 'Wallpeckers'.
On 31 December 1989 half a million people from East and West Berlin returned to this spot to celebrate New Year's Eve together for the first time since the construction of the wall. In October the following year, the German Democratic Republic dissolved and Germany was unified. The dissolution of the Soviet Union soon followed in 1991, officially bringing the Cold War to an end.