On November 9, 2014 it was 25 years ago that the Berlin Wall fell. The Berlin Wall means a 100 meter wide construction of successive barriers of August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989. West and East Berlin were divided from each other. East Berlin was the capital of the German Democratic Republic GDR.  November 9, 1989 was a historic day. Or rather night, because when the border between East and West Berlin were actually opened it was already half past eleven in the evening. In the dark Trabants and Wartburgs drove through the border with jubilant GDR citizens. There was an end to the separation of East and West Berlin by a wall after 28 years.

 

Not only the Berlin wall fell. The entire Iron Curtain came down, the seperation between Eastern and Western Europe came to an end. Yet unexpectedly the Eastern Bloc collapsed. People of East European countries forced their leaders to do away their power. There came an end to the dictatorships. Just like East and West Berlin Western Europe and Eastern Europe were seperated by a wall or fence.  Eastern Europe was in the Russian sphere of influence. To prevent the people of those countries to leave their countries for the West a fence was placed. In 1947 the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke of the Iron Curtain. The dividing line ran from north to south and there were minefields, watchtowers and rolls of barbed wire. Iit was almost impossible to go to the West other than through the official border crossings. The wall ran straight through villages along the border.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern and Western Europe were actually seperated by an Iron Curtain. A fence ran across Europe. The countries in the East formed the Eastern Bloc, united in the Warsaw Pact military alliance, the counterpart of NATO.

Fall of communismn

On November 9, 1989, thousands of jubilant Germans brought down the most visible symbol of division at the heart of Europe—the Berlin Wall. For two generations, the Wall was the physical representation of the Iron Curtain, and East German border guards had standing shoot-to-kill orders against those who tried to escape. But just as the Wall had come to represent the division of Europe, its fall came to represent the end of the Cold War. In the White House, President George H. W. Bush and his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, watched the unfolding scene on a television in the study, aware of both the historical significance of the moment and of the challenges for U.S. foreign policy that lay ahead. Not even the most optimistic observer of President’s Ronald Reagan’s 1987 Berlin speech calling on Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” would have imagined that two years later the communist regimes of Eastern Europe would collapse like dominoes. By 1990, the former communist leaders were out of power, free elections were held, and Germany was whole again.

The peaceful collapse of the regimes was by no means pre-ordained. Soviet tanks crushed demonstrators in East Berlin in June 1953, in Hungary in 1956, and again in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Soviet military planners were intimately involved in the Polish planning for martial law in 1980, and Soviet troops remained stationed throughout Eastern Europe, as much a guarantee for Soviet security as an ominous reminder to Eastern European peoples of Soviet dominance over their countries.

The Reagan administration’s strong rhetoric in support of the political aspirations of Eastern European and Soviet citizens was met, following 1985, with a new type of leader in the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (transparency) further legitimized popular calls for reform from within. Gorbachev also made clear—at first secretly to the Eastern European leaders, then increasingly more public—that the Soviet Union had abandoned the policy of military intervention in support of communist regimes (the Brezhnev Doctrine).

On February 6, 1989, negotiations between the Polish Government and members of the underground labor union Solidarity opened officially in Warsaw. Solidarity was formed in August 1980 following a series of strikes that paralyzed the Polish economy. The 1981 Soviet-inspired imposition of martial law drove the organization underground, where it survived due to support from Western labor organizations and Polish émigré groups. The results of the “Round Table Talks,” signed by government and Solidarity representatives on April 4, included free elections for 35% of the Parliament (Sejm), free elections for the newly created Senate, a new office of the President, and the recognition of Solidarity as a political party. On June 4, as Chinese tanks crushed student-led protests in Beijing, Solidarity delivered a crushing electoral victory. By August 24, ten years after Solidarity emerged on the scene, Tadeusz Mazowiecki became the first non-communist Prime Minister in Eastern Europe.

In Hungary, drastic changes were also under way. The government, already the most liberal of the communist governments, allowed free association and assembly and ordered opening of the country’s border with the West. In doing so, it provided an avenue to escape for an ever-increasing number of East Germans. The Hungarian Party removed its long-time leader, Janos Kadar, agreed to its own version of the Round Table talks with the opposition, and, on June 16, ceremoniously re-interred Imre Nagy, the reformist communist leader of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. By October 23, ten months after political reforms began, Hungary adopted a new constitution allowing a multi-party system and competitive elections.

The economic collapse of East Germany led increasing numbers of East Germans to seek to emigrate to the West. Thousands sought refuge in West German embassies in other communist countries, eventually forcing the government to allow them to emigrate via special trains. Visiting Berlin in early October, Gorbachev cautioned the East German leadership of the need to reform, and confided in his advisors that East German leader Erich Honecker had to be replaced. Two weeks later, Honecker was forced to resign, while hundreds of thousands marched in protest throughout major East German cities. On November 9, as the world watched on television, the East German Government announced the opening of all East German borders. In a fluid situation, the Berlin Wall came down when an obviously ill-prepared East German spokesman told reporters that the new travel regulations also applied to Berlin. Before the end of the month, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl unveiled a plan for reunification of the two Germanies.

As the Wall came down and the fears of a Soviet reaction receded, the dominoes started falling at a quickened pace. In October, riot police arrested hundreds in Prague after an unsanctioned demonstration; only weeks later, hundreds of thousands gathered in Prague to protest the government. Alexander Dubcek, the reformist communist who led the Prague Spring in 1968, made his first public appearance in over two decades. A new, non-communist government took the country’s reins on December 5, and on December 29, Vaclav Havel, the famed playwright and dissident, was elected President. In Bulgaria, protests lead to the removal of Todor Zhivkov, the long-time leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party, and his replacement with reformist communist, Petar Mladenov. The new government quickly announced that the government would hold free elections in 1990.

Only in Romania did the events turn violent. Nicolae Ceausescu, an increasingly idiosyncratic relic of Stalinist times, refused any reforms. On December 17 in Timisoara, the army and police fired into crowds protesting government policies, killing dozens. Protests spread to other cities, with hundreds killed when Ceausescu ordered the violent repression of demonstrations on December 21. By the next day, Ceausescu was forced to flee Bucharest and was arrested by army units in the countryside. The interim government, led by a reformist communist Ion Iliescu, held a quick mock trial and Ceausescu and his wife were executed on December 25.

By the summer of 1990, all of the former communist regimes of Eastern Europe were replaced by democratically elected governments. In Poland, Hungary, East Germany and Czechoslovakia, newly formed center-right parties took power for the first time since the end of World War II. In Bulgaria and Romania, reformed communists retained control of the governments, but new center-right parties entered Parliaments and became active on the political scene. The course was set for the reintegration of Eastern Europe into Western economic, political, and security frameworks. Writing in his journal on November 10, 1989, Anatoly Chernyaev, foreign policy advisor to Gorbachev noted that the fall of the wall represented “a shift in the world balance of forces” and the end of Yalta.

Meeting in Malta on December 2, Bush and Gorbachev “buried the Cold War at the bottom of the Mediterranean” as one of Gorbachev’s staffers later described. In his memoirs, Bush noted that the rapport he built with Gorbachev at that meeting would prove beneficial later on. And while Scowcroft did not yet feel the Cold War was over, he noted that U.S. policy at the time evolved, “from quietly supporting the transformations to cultivating Soviet acquiescence, even collaboration, in them.”
 

Hungarian border guard cut the fence section between Austria and Hungary

 

That night the Wall was not opened immediately. The border guards, the army and the secret service did not know how it was to be acted now. Only at 23:52 pm the border crossing Bornholmer Strasse was the first to actually open.

 

 

 

On November 10, 1989 the Helmstedt border crossing was opened, and there was a mass exodus from the GDR by the inhabitants with their Trabis

There then followed a chain reaction in which all border crossings were opened, and the East Germans were stunned to West Berlin.

Throughout Berlin came a folk festival underway whose images have gone all over the world. The wall was no longer monitored and residents began the wall more than 28 years for a separation between the two districts had made to break down. Many of the pieces are taken by people as a souvenir to commemorate the division of the city.

The Soviet Union was watching but did not intervene. Therefore the fall of the Berlin Wall is considered as the fall of the Eastern Bloc. In the months following this event in Berlin there was a period in which the communist regimes fell one after another. In 1991, the reunification of Germany was a fact. The then Soviet Union ceased to exist. This was on 25 December 1991. This was a definitive end to the Eastern Bloc era and the Cold War.
 

Our trip to Berlin 25 years after the fall of the wall

From 7 to November 10, 2014 we went along with a memorable bus trip to Berlin organized by publisher Wegener in cooperation with effeweg bus travel  

 

De kranten die worden uitgegeven door Wegener.

On the way we made a stop at the former border crossing Helmstedt which one had to pass to drive through a transit route through the GDR to West Berlin. As Germany was divided into occupation zones between the French, British, Americans and Russians, Berlin was divided between the four powers that had defeated Germany in World War II. East Berlin was in the Russian zone and was the capital of the GDR. West Berlin was a free city in the communist GDR and was divided into bezettingszônes between the French, British and Americans.

For one hour we could walk around the complex of the former border crossing where all the buildings are intact and exhibits were on display. It is a government protected area called Memorial Deutsche Teilung Marienborn It was a somewhat unreal atmosphere sad. This border crossing was notorious for the strict and often humiliating inspections by customs officials of the GDR. Here many escape attempt was stranded.
 

Helmstedt Marienborn: Wearing a thick cap you had a Kalashnikov. At this border crossing they were there too.

Look! A Trabant!

Fortunately Elly could laugh here, but before the fall of the wall it was quite different, for if you had a smile on your face then you were under suspicion...
View from our hotel room on Messe Berlin. On the left the tower and that round building were already built in Hitler's Berlin. The tower was intended for the Volksempfanger. A radio promoted among the Germans to listen to Hitler en Goebbels.
The winter palace was the winter residence of the Margrave and Elector of Brandenburg. Later it was the residence of the King of Prussia and Emperor of the German Empire. The City Palace, Berlin was on the Spree Island in the center of Berlin at the Schlossplatz. It is now rebuilt.

We visit the GDR Museum on the banks of the Spree.

The border crossing at Helmstedt to the GDR

Unlike the rest of the citizens of the GDR who had to drive in a simple and smelly Trabant of Wartburg the party officials drove in a luxery extended Volvo.
De Television tower. 368 meter high and the highest building of the city near  Alexanderplatz en in voormalig Oost-Berlijn. The tower was built between 1965 and 1969 with the aid of Swedish constructors. The tower consists of a concrete mast containing two elevator shafts. On top of the concrete part there is a sphere covered with sheet containing the viewing platform, and a restaurant. On top of the bulb is a red-and-white television antenna.

tHE Berliner Dom is on of the most important churches in Berlin situated on the Museum Island at the Karl-Liebknecht-Straße. This photograph I made on a bridge across the Spree. On the left bank the GDR Museum.

During our stay in Berlin the newspapers reported about the historical events 25 years ago.

This photograph I took on another bridge crossing the river Spree which flows through the city of Berlin. Left the Dom and on the banks right the GDR-Museum.
In the bus I took this photograph of East-Side Gallery while we drove along it. The East Side Gallery is a part of the Berlin Wall that had being painted by 118 artists after the 'Wende' in November 1989. The most famous and longest part (1316 meters). Also the longest open-air gallery of Europe.

Museum Island

Here played the story from Rosenstraße. The touching story of three women who were very brave and during the Third Reich organized a demonstration in front of the building where their Jewish husbands were imprisoned by the Gestapo.

This photograph I took from Rosenstraße on 8 november 2014.

Allied Museum

Art near Allied Museum. Horses jumping across the fallen wall.

Olympic Stadion 1936

We watch the Olympic Stadion built for the olympics in 1936 by Hitler's architect Albert Speer.
The building had to make a deep impression by making the square spikewise and a difference in high of 7 meters.

Fortunately the eagel is incomplete now.

Kaiserdamm

On Kaiserdamm the street light are designed by Hitler's architect Albert Speer.

From out the bus I took this photograph of the river Spree.

Berlin main station

On 9 november when we drove through Berlin we saw Trabis. 25 years ago they came through the border crossings with the GDR to West Berlin with joyful GDR citizens.
A replica of the first traffic light of Berlin. The traffic light dates from 1934 and is located on Potsdamer Platz.

Potsdamer Platz. The madness has struck at the end of the afternoon of November 9th.

Siegessäule. To the victories of various wars by celebrating the Prussians. Victories over the Danes and the French.

After we left the restaurant after dinner we saw a row Trabis in the street.

Cruise on the river Spree

Cruise on the river Spree. White balloons called the Light Border mark the cause of the wall at the time.

Cruise on the river Spree. Government buildings and light border which mark the course of the wall at the time.

De Siegessäule was clear to see.

Bernauer Straße

Berlin Wall Memorial. We are standing in front of the remain wall of 3 meters high. Climbing the wall was impossible but additionally you were a target.

Checkpoint Charlie

We were at Checkpoint Charlie in the evening of 9 november 2014. A big crowd gathered together to remember the fall of the wall 25 years ago. This was the main border crossing between East and West Berlin.

From the balcony of McDonalds at Checkpoint Charlie I took these pictures.

Berlijn 25 years after the fall of the wall at 19:40 hours in the evening of 9 november 2014 we are standing in the middle of a huge crowd to see how the baloons the the Light Wall are launched. It was impossible to reach the Brandenburg Gate so we saw the event at the East Side Gallery.