The East Side Gallery is the longest surviving section of the Berlin Wall. In 1990, more than 100 artists from over 20 countries decorated this stretch of the hinterland wall with their art works. The most famous is undoubtedly the work known as the “Fraternal Kiss”, depicting a kiss between Russian leader Leonid Brezhnev and East Germany’s SED Party Chairman Erich Honecker.
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In the night from 12 to 13 August 1961, the East German army began sealing off the streets and railway lines providing access to West Berlin. Then the East German regime erected a wall along the sector border: The construction of the Berlin Wall begins!
The border encircling West Berlin was 167.8 kilometres long. During the numerous attempts in the years that followed to overcome the 167.8 kilometres of border fortifications, present research shows that between 136 and 206 people died trying to cross from East to West.
The Berlin Wall finally fell on 9 November 1989: The fall of the Berlin Wall went down in world history.. The city recalls the victims of the division of Germany at many Berlin Wall sites, museums and memorial sites, such as the Tränenpalast(Palace of Tears), the Berlin Wall Memorial in Bernauer Strasse, and the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, a former Stasi remand prison.
On the evening of 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. It was a night when innumerable East and West Berliners made history.
They climbed over the concrete walls, crowded through the narrow border crossing points, went at the Berlin Wall with hammers, and retook their city in its entirety. The images of this historical event were shown around the world.
The fall of the Wall left unused spaces in the urban landscape. Residents and visitors adopted these abandoned areas as creative spaces – from the art scene in Brunnenstraße to the Berlin start-ups at Moritzplatz – or simply enjoyed the new access to the River Spree.
Today, more than 30 years on, Berlin is no longer a walled city, but a world city. Since those days, millions of visitors have come to Berlin, Germany’s capital city, to see this change for themselves. Visit Berlin around October 3rd to become part of the festivities and events to celebrate the Day of German unity.
What have Berliners made of their city since 1989? The past remains alive and tangible for everyone in the countless sites of history.
After the fall of the Wall, Berlin has also become a creative location, a lifestyle metropolis, with fantastic restaurants and countless shopping opportunities. It is also a modern hotspot for sustainability and forrecreation in the countryside.
And Berlin is a destination for everyone: accessibility is written large in the German capital.
9 November 1989: The Berlin Wall comes down
On 9 November 1989 the Berlin Wall came down after more than 28 years. Follow the events that ultimately led to the fall of the Wall in our timeline. T
The 40th anniversary of the GDR was long in the planning and meticulously prepared by the SED leadership. Despite Monday demonstrations and a mass exodus, the anniversary of the GDR was celebrated with a military parade. While the citizens demonstrated and demanded reforms, Erich Honecker invited numerous foreign state guests to the Palace of the Republic.
A few days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the largest demonstration in GDR history took place. Artists and functionaries gathered at Alexanderplatz, demanding a fresh political start. No-one was thinking of reunification at this point, as the belief in socialism still remained. But the GDR politicians were booed by the people at the rally.
It was just before 7pm on November 9, 1989 and Günter Schabowski, the "Secretary for Information", put on his glasses at the International Press Centre of the GDR and read out a statement with which he was supposed to announce solely the new travel law, but instead opened the wall. The extended freedom for GDR citizens to travel applied "immediately, without delay". This certainly attracted the attention of everyone in the room.
The German-German border ran through the middle of the Bösebrücke in Berlin between Wedding and Prenzlauer Berg. Here – on the east side of the border – a huge crowd gathered on the night of 9 and 10 November 1989. The new travel regulations had brought people here – and more and more were coming. Finally the border guards opened the border barrier and the jubilant people streamed over the bridge to the west.
Knocking, hammering, clanking, rattling and crumbling: shortly after the fall of the Wall, the "wallpeckers" set to work. Among them were souvenir hunters, tourists and traders, but also GDR opponents. Little by little, piece by piece, they removed the façade of the Berlin Wall – not even the loudspeaker announcements of the West Berlin police could stop them, since here souvenirs of freedom were to be found.
What happened next? Read the whole story in our Berlin app ABOUT BERLIN. It presents hands-on history, moving stories and unknown aspects of politics – that's how history comes alive! Available free of charge for iPhone and Android.
How did the people feel the night the Berlin wall fell?
It was my first big party and the best party of my life - never have I celebrated more relaxed, boundless. Squeezed among strangers who were as close to me that night as my parents were. It was November 9, 1989. We heard about the party of the decade from the news. I was only 10 years old at that time, but I remember these pictures of people dancing in the neon light of the border fortress (Berlin Lichtenrade) as if it had been yesterday. That night everything was unique. Unforgettable.
On November 9th I visited my grandparents in Berlin (I lived with my parents outside Berlin at that time). In the early evening my grandmother took me to the cinema (Arielle the Mermaid). After that we went straight home. My grandmother had been surprised that so many people are in the city, but since we neither listened to the radio nor watched television, we didn't notice the opening of the borders. But the next morning, of course, we did. I immediately called my mother. She told me that my brother had called her in the middle of the night. She - totally sleepy - answered the phone: "Mummy, Mummy, guess where I am", Kay asked. My mother: "Kay, I don't care where you are! It's the middle of the night and we were asleep!" Kay: "Man, mum, I'm on the Ku'damm!" My mother: "Kay, how many times have I told you not to drink so much beer!!!" Well, the rest of the night she couldn't sleep anymore. My parents hung spellbound in front of the television.
We had to work till just before midnight. But my wife and I had already received the unbelievably good news in the course of the evening: The wall was open. East Berlin was now empty. So you could get a taxi. We drove to the station Friedrichstraße: the divided station with the huge so far almost insurmountable steel plate between the platforms. We go into the palace of tears. A border guard takes a look at our identity cards. The path leads through an unadorned tunnel. Neon light flickers. Goose bumps. An ambience like the way to Stasi hell. But the opposite is the case. We can hardly believe it. The suburban train leaves. Experienced a thousand times; but this time in a different direction. Shortly before entering the Lehrter Bahnhof (today the main station): pure emotions and lots of tears of joy, the most beautiful day of our lives.
Unfortunately we did not come from the West to East Berlin on 9 November. But we could welcome the East citizens at the border crossing Bornholmer Straße. In order to really celebrate, we had to go to Breitscheidplatz - there was really something going on!
In the morning on November 10th I accompanied my girlfriend to school - but nobody could think of school at all. We tried to walk from Schöneberg to the Brandenburg Gate. On the Straße des 17. Juni, about 100 meters, in front of the Brandenburger Tor, we saw two cars in the distance. We tried to stop them. The cars stopped and someone opened the back door of the first Mercedes: "My voice failed me when I recognized Willy Brandt. He shook my hand, looked around and said, "Come, let's go to the wall together." At that moment I understood: "Man, that was Willy Brandt! Man, the wall's really going down!" We all hugged each other euphorically!
For me the 9.11.1989 was an exhausting day and so I went to bed early. The next morning I drove, as usual, about 6.45am with my car to work. I saw my first Trabbi behind the exit Halensee - and that in the middle of West Berlin. At the red traffic light two young men from these cars waved at me laughing and I closed my eyes for a moment because I could no longer believe them. As more Trabbis passed me, I realized that I was experiencing a miracle, a miracle that touched my life and made me a grateful witness of my time. I get something as a gift that I have always missed as an Austrian Berliner by choice. At that time it never occurred to me to throw the approaching hurdles, efforts and impassability into the balance, because the exuberant feeling of happiness and relief over the peaceful overcoming of an unloved regime outshone everything else.