Fall of Berlin Wall – observers’ recollections
The Berlin Wall was more than just a symbol, rather an actual, physical division between the East and the West. Through the years, thousands tried to escape from the East and more than a hundred people were killed in the process. All of this changed in August of 1989, when Hungary opened its border with Austria, starting a chain reaction of migration that could not be stopped.
“Daily around a thousand East Germans left for the FRG through Hungary. In the beginning of November, the Czechoslovakian-West German border was also opened. On November 7th, 50,000 East Germans left for the FRG through Czechoslovakia. The chaos reached its peak in the late evening of 9th November 1989,” remembers retired GDR Army General Hans Verder Deim.
After a premature announcement by the East German government, thousands gathered at the wall in Berlin demanding safe passage.
“The Wall fell. It wasn’t closed again. Politics had to take this into account and behave accordingly. The East and the West welcomed this fact, and they were congratulating the Germans, although it was unclear what things would happen next,” says Hans Modrow, Prime Minister of the GDR in 1989-1990.
The peaceful revolution saw the border between East and West disappear but it has not been welcomed by all.
“The fall of the Berlin Wall, which is today being presented as the end of the Cold War, happened due to a combination of several circumstances. First, it was the loss by the USSR, led by Gorbachev, of all initiative in international affairs, the erosion of the Soviet economy at that time, and the inability of the government to feed its people, as Gorbachev has put it himself. This led to our leaders’ willingness to abandon all our positions in Europe, and not just in Europe, but also on other continents, for one delusion of theirs – that we’d be allowed to be what we wanted to be,” Valentin Filin, former Soviet Ambassador to Germany.
Still, differing political ideals were not enough to keep a region divided.
“The social breakout and the Germans' desire to reunite had a potential that couldn’t be held back by key European states that opposed the reunification of Germany. Besides, those events took not centuries or decades, but mere years,” says Hans Verder Deim.
Almost 20 years have passed since Germany’s unification. And now, as the world is preparing to mark the date, Germans are pondering the human and financial sacrifice.