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THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL, NOVEMBER 1989

Amazing scenes as sinister symbol of communist oppression is opened

"Hearing of the events in Berlin I flew in to the city from my base in London. I'd grown up in the shadow of the Cold War and to be a witness to this momentous piece of history was thrilling."
-
Richard Moore

 

President Reagan's call to Gorbachev

"We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.

"There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation, come here to this gate.

"Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

 

After World War II Europe was divided between Western and communist spheres of influence and militarily by Nato (Western Europe and the United States) and the Warsaw Pact (East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and the Soviet Union.)

Berlin, deep inside East Germany, was also divided and run by the occupying powers of the US, Britain and France, on the Western side and the Soviet Union on the eastern.

In 1961 the Soviets and East Germany tightened their grip on the city by building The Berlin Wall.

It was a massive operation. The wall was 3.6 metres high, 106 kilometres long and had guard towers, barbed wire and other "defences".

The communists said it was to keep fascists out but, in reality, it was to keep East Germans from fleeing to the West. Many East Germans tried to escape over the wall and while 5000 succeeded up to 200 died doing so.

The last person to be shot and killed while trying to cross the border was Chris Gueffroy on February 6, 1989.

In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987, US President Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev, then the Soviet leader and champion of Glasnost, or "Openness", to tear down the wall as a symbol of increasing freedom in the Eastern Bloc.

In 1989, a politically stunning series of events occurred. It became known as the Autumn of the Nations as one by one the communist nations of Central and Eastern Europe overthrew their governments.

It began in Poland and continued in Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania. In East Germany weeks of civil unrest ended on November 9 when the communist government announced all its citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin.

Within a year Germany was re-unified after more than 40 years as divided, occupied country.

- Richard Moore

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