World History Chronology

Evolution of Hominids

Foraging Societies

Settled Agriculture

Primary Urbanization

Classical Empires

Unification of Eurasia

Unification of the Hemispheres

Formation of World Culture

2003 David Koeller.  All rights reserved.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

1989

 

Berlin had been politically divided since the end of World War II, with the eastern portion of the city serving as the capitol of German Democratic Republic.  The two parts of the city were physically divided in 1961 with the construction of the Berlin Wall, the most visible expression of the Cold War. When the Berlin Wall was opened on November 9, 1989 it marked for many the symbolic end of that war.  

Back to The Cold War Chronology

To find the cause of the fall of the Berlin Wall, one must look, not in Germany, but in the Soviet Union. The change began when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union in 1985.  He tried to make changes in the state bureaucracy and in the Communist party by restructuring the economy’s production and distribution system, a plan now known as perestroika. In addition, Gorbachev also allowed for the policy of glasnost, or public criticism of the communist party. Gorbachev’s reform contributed to the breakup of the centralized structure of the USSR.  During this time some states such as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania declared their independence.  In 1989, Gorbachev shifted his policies toward the satellite states of the communist block in Eastern Europe, including Germany. [2]

In effect, the politics in Germany also began to lead toward the destruction of the wall.  In the fall of 1989, there was an antigovernment demonstration in East Germany. In mid-October 1989, the Politburo forced the resignation of Erich Honecker, the leader of the GDR (German Democratic Republic). [5] In this way, Erich Honecker was ousted from office, and others soon followed. By the first week of November, the entire Politburo and all of the members of the East German cabinet resigned. [5]  The new Prime minister, Hans Modrow, announced plans to decentralize the economy and an easing of travel restrictions. [4]  This allowed the East Germans, from the communist sector, to cross the boarder into the west, the Allied sector.

At this point, East Germany began to reform. Then on November 9, 1989, the leader of the East Berlin communist party, Gunter Schabowski, announced that the boarder with West Berlin would be opened for "private trips abroad."  Masses of people started to use hammers and chisels to knock out pieces of the wall. Shortly thereafter, on November 10, 1989 and later on December 22, 1989 checkpoints were opened at Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenberg Gate. On March 18, 1990, free elections in East Germany took place for the first time in 58 years. [5]  By July 1, 1990, the wall tumbled down and Germany was completely united. [3] As a result, a massive emigration from East to West began, which has left economic and emotional scars that can only be healed by the hard work and understanding of generations to come. But on the day that the wall fell will stand out in all of history, as a day when friends and family and an entire nation were reunited, while tears of joy were being shed by all.

 


The Wall Came Down

Brothers and Sisters torn apart 

Longed for each other with pain in the heart

Mothers in tears held their arms toward the sky

"Where are my children, who took them and why"

A wall stood between them and gave them no rest

The wall in Berlin, between East and West.

Thousands tried passing, were caught and would fall

She claimed her victims, the cursed wall

But their longing and pain was stronger than fear

As they tried to come home year after year.

Their country divided, that's why they tried

And their hope for reunion never died.

East Germans, West Germans all felt the same

Through tunnels and over the Wall they came.

Many were captured, suffered torture and shame

Still they fought that wall again and again.

At Last their pain gave birth to a cry

"Free us! Unite us! before we all die"

Against their oppressors their outrage they hurled

And their plea found an echo all over the world,

Then they marched, like in battle, with tools in their hand,

And attacked the concrete that divided their land.

Each chip that fell, fell toward victories crown

And they never stopped till the wall was down

Through blood and through tears, through sorrow and strife

East Germany kept her dream alive

And today, 1990, October three

There's no East, there's no West, they are one, they are "Free!"

by Ruth Carlson 1

 


Notes:

For more info. on the Fall of the Berlin Wall:

http://www.swlink.net/~ateo/walllinks.html for other sites

http://www.appropriatesoftware.com/BerlinWall/Images8.html  AWESOME PICS!

 


Bibliography:

1. http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Estates/5465/thewall.htm

2. Matthews, Roy T. and Platt, F. DeWitt.  The Western Humanities.  Mayfield Publishing Company.  Mountain View, California, 1995  p. 560-562.

3. http://members.aol.com/johball/bib.htm

4. Orlow, Dietrich. A History of Modern Germany.  Prentice-Hall.  New Jersey, 1999.

5. Sullivan, Richard E., Sherman, Dennis and Harrison, John B.  A Short History of Western Civilization.  McGraw-Hill, Inc.  New York, 1994, p755-758.


Edited by: Trishia Parker
Researched by: Emily McCarty
Written by: Emily Falk and Trishia Parker
May 8, 1999
Revised April 2, 2001
Updated January 26, 2003

Text copyright 1996-2003 by David W. Koeller. All rights reserved.

 

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