Bringing Down the Berlin Wall 25 Years Later
Berlin celebrates 25 years of the Fall of the Berlin Wall
Berlin is going to be filled with festivities throughout this weekend as the Grey City celebrates 25 years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the most enduring symbols of the Cold War.
Berliners will celebrate the historic anniversary by releasing illuminated balloons outlining where the Berlin Wall once stood while the on Sunday, November 9.
Guests of honor and eyewitnesses will watch as the balloons light up the night sky as strains of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony play at the Brandenburg Gate and at six other locations throughout Berlin.
A quarter of a century ago Germany was reunited for the first time in nearly 30 years with the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The wall that divided East and West Berlin since its construction August 13, 1961 by the communist government, the German Democratic Republic, of East Berlin fell when head of state of the GDR Egon Krenz announced that East Germans could freely cross the border November 9, 1989.
The border that divided Berlin was created at the end of World War II in 1945 when Germany was divided into four “allied occupied zones” after the Allied peace conferences in Yalta, Crimea and Potsdam, Germany, according to the History Channel’s website. The eastern part of the country went to Russia – then known as the Soviet Union – while western Germany went to Britain and the U.S., and eventually France. Berlin, the capital of Germany, which was located in the eastern region of the country, was also divided in the same way: Russia got East Berlin and the allies got West Berlin.
Uncomfortable neighbors, the Soviets attempted to push the capitalistic western nations out of Berlin a couple of times before building the wall, but it didn’t work. Millions of East Berliners fled to West Berlin since 1949, the end of the blockade. To stop defectors, Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave permission to the East German government to permanently close the border by building a makeshift wall. The Wall was built within two weeks and replaced later with a sturdier wall.
In total, 171 East Berliners died attempting to get around, over, or under the Wall. However, more than 5,000 people (including some 600 border guards) successfully escaped East Berlin between 1961 and 1989. Escape routes included “jumping out of windows adjacent to the wall, climbing over the barbed wire, flying hot air balloons, crawling through sewers and driving through unfortified parts of the wall at high speeds,” according to the History Channel.
Open the Gate!
The night the wall came down, Berliners on both sides of the wall swarmed it chanting, “Tor auf!,” translated “Open the gate!”. Beer and champagne flow as some Eastern Berliners crossed freely into West Berlin for the first time in their lives or for a long time. Other people brought hammers and picks and began chipping away at the wall. Bulldozers and cranes took over the “mauerspechte,” or “wall woodpeckers,” what people called the people chipping away at the wall, tearing down sections. A year later the wall was gone and Berlin was officially united again October 3, 1990.
Throughout the weekend, November 7 – 9, there will be a number of events commemorating the historic anniversary for Berliners and visitors to Berlin to remember.
Visitors to Berlin are invited to walk the path of the wall to remember and visualize the former divide of the city. Information pavilions at certain points – Berlin Wall Memorial and Documentation Centre, Bornholmer Straße, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Mauerpark, East Side Gallery, and Potsdamer Platz – will be open daily 9:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. November 7 – 9. There will also be tours, viewing platforms and collages of historic images showing on giant screens.
There will also be guided tours along the lighting installation each day of the weekend and an open-air exhibition.
The open-air exhibition, “100 Wall Stories,” will consist of a hundred informational exhibits along the lighting installation providing background on topics such as: stories of a divided city before the Wall, the construction of the Wall in 1961, protests against the Wall, escape attempts, deaths at the Wall, border installations and inspections, everyday life in the divided city, stories of the peaceful revolution of 1989, the fall of the Wall, opening the border crossings and souvenir hunters.
Not just Berlin: A quarter century after the peaceful revolution of 1989, four cities in the former East Germany (Berlin, Plauen, Dresden and Leipzig) will be holding joint commemorations of the events of autumn 1989 at the Gethesemanekirche.
November 8: Chamber ensembles consisting of members of the European Union Youth Orchestra will be performing brief concerts at the Mauerpark, East Side Gallery and Checkpoint Charlie gathering spots, 5 – 9 p.m. The music will be composed from the past three centuries and is designed to reflect upon the richness of European music history and the joy that erupted as the division of Germany came to an end 25 years ago.
All of West Berlin was Surrounded: Memorial services for those who were killed attempting to get to the other side of the wall.
- 11 a.m.: The Berliner Allee Wall Memorial (at the edge of the Schönwalde housing estate), formerly the border strip.
- 3:30 p.m.: A public memorial ceremony dedicated at the former border will be dedicated at Groß Glienicker See/Gutspark Glienicke, where the former border fence and a piece of the Wall were installed as a memorial this year.
Permanent Exhibition at the Berlin Wall Memorial, Bernauer Straße: The new permanent exhibition, “1961│1989: The Berlin Wall” will open at the Berlin Wall Memorial and Documentation Centre after a memorial service at the adjacent Chapel of Reconciliation.
Street Festival at the Brandenburg Gate: A street festival featuring musicians Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle as well as singers Udo Lindenberg and Peter Gabriel around the Brandenburg Gate sponsored by the German government.
A special concert of The Berliner Philharmoniker with Sir Simon Rattle will mark the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in the large hall of the Philharmonie.
Learn more about the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, visit VisitBerlin.de/en/event/11-09-2014/25-Years-Fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall or Germany.info/FallofTheWall.
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