The Fall of the Berlin Wall

On August 23 1989, Hungary - a communist country - opened its borders with Austria. During September 1989 13,00o East German tourists who were in Hungary escaped into Austria. Mass demonstrations against the government in East Germany began in the autumn of 1989. Erich Honecker, the long time leader of East Germany resigned in October and was replaced by Egon Krenz.

The new East German government decided to allow East Berliners to apply for a travel visa to visit West Germany. Günter Schabowski, the East German Minister of Propaganda had the task of announcing this, but he had been on holiday when this decision was made and so hadn't been fully briefed on the matter.

On November 9 1989 he was about to go to a press conference when he was handed a note that told him of the government decision to allow East Berliners to cross the border with proper permission but he was given no further information. The intention was for these changes to come into effect the following day to allow time to brief the border guards, but no-one had told Schabowski. At the end of the press conference he read the note out loud. He was then asked when these changes would come into effect and replied 'As far as I know immediately, right now'.

On hearing this statement, tens of thousands of East Berliners flocked to the checkpoints and demanded entry into West Berlin. At the same time West Berliners began to gather on their side of the wall. Initially, the East German border guards refused to open the border but it soon became clear that there was no way they could hold back such a large crowd and so eventually the border was opened. There was excitement on both sides as people from East and West Berlin greeted each other. November 9 1989 is considered the day the wall fell.