The day the 20th century ended

November 9th, 1989, is the day when the 20th century, the shortest and more violent of History, ended.

That day, GDR Ministry Günter Schabowski announced during a press conference, broadcasted live by the East Germany television, that citizens of German Democratic Republic would be free to cross any of the country borders from midnight, including Berlin Wall, without any special permission.

Reaction was inmediate, the voice spread on both sides of Berlin and ten thousand East Berliners went to the Wall checkpoints demanding entry into West Berlin. At those moments, border control soldiers and ministery staff had no official information, but no one wanted to assume the responsability of applying lethal force. With no specific orders, finally the guards yielded: Bornholmerstrasse checkpoint opened at 23:00, allowing the crossing with no identification needed.

East Berliners were received with great celebration. Most of the bars next to the wall offered free beer and unknown people embraced. In the night’s euphoria, many West Berliners climbed the Wall and started to knocked it down by any means they could find. Mstislav Rostropovitch, a famous cello player who had to exile to the West, went to the Wall to play and encourage those demolishing it.

Rostropovich at Berlin Wall

Rostropovich en el Muro de Berlín

During the next weeks, the GDR authorities announced the opening of ten new crossing points. Crowds on both sides waited for hours and cheered the bulldozers up while they opened the new crossing ways. On December 22nd, 1989, the Brandenburg Gate crossing point was opened.

12 de noviembre, 1989 © John Gaps / AP

12 de noviembre, 1989 © John Gaps / AP

Technically, the Wall continued under surveillance for some time after november 9th. Even, the East Germany guards tried to repair the damages caused by West citizens, but finally gave up, allowing new demolitions and tolerating “unauthorised” crosses through holes. On July 1st, 1990, all border controls officially ceased, although inner Germany controls had been meaningless time ago. The demolition continued until November 1991, now carried out by military units. Only a few sections and watchtowers were left as memorials.

Peter Fechter, eighteen, was shot and bled to death in the wall on August 17th, 1962. He screamed for help for an hour, at the sight of hundreds of West Berlin onlookers who shouted “¡Murderers!” to the wall guards, but he didn’t received any medical attention, because of fear of the armed guards. He was one of the first victims of the Wall.

Chris Gueffroy was shot and died on February, 6th, 1989, trying to climb the Wall; Winfried Freudenberg died on March, 8th, 1989, when the improvised aircraft ballon he constructed to cross to West Berlin crashed. They were the last victims.

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