When The Wall Came Down...

Rachel Catherine's picture

The night of November 9, 1989, was a night that saw happiness, reunion, and, most importantly, hope.

It was the night that a wall, which had stood for twenty-eight years as a symbol of the tensions that remained after World War II, was torn down. It would be the start of a new era.  

A History Of The Wall

After World War II, the allied powers, divided Germany. They also divided the capitol, Berlin. The eastern part of the country went to the Soviet Union, while the western part went to the United States, Great Britain and France.

On August 13, 1961, the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) began to build a barbed wire and concrete blockade with the purpose of keeping Western “fascists” from entering East Germany. This wall was more than 70 miles long and built of extremely durable material. 300 watchtowers made it nearly impossible for people to cross to the other side.

The small strip between the East and West was called the “Death Strip.” However, many people still escaped and the mission to tear down the wall was never fully diminished. On June 12 1987, President Ronald Reagan spoke at the wall, famously noted for saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Mikhail Gorbachev was the President of the Soviet Union at that time.

Two years later, people from both sides did just that…

The Two Sides Unite

Starting on November 4, 1989, one million people in East Berlin gathered to protest. On the night of November 9, Berliners from the East and the West tore down the wall, using pickaxes, hammers, and even vehicles. Finally, the wall came crashing down, bringing together the two sides of Berlin once again.

Friends and family were reunited. Images from the night depict joyful scenes of people hugging, fists thrown up in the air in triumph, and smiles full of hope. The fall of the Berlin wall became an international symbol of hope.

25 Years Later…

Today, we can still see the impact that the Berlin wall made on Berlin. Literally! Astronaut André Kuipers took a photo of Berlin from the International Space Station in 2012. It shows one division of Berlin: The yellow lights are in East Berlin and the green parts mark Western Berlin.

In addition to this remarkable image, there are other indicators that the Berlin Wall has had lasting impacts. For example, income levels are, on average, lower in the East than the West. In addition, unemployment is higher in Eastern Berlin. We can see from these comparisons that although the destruction of the Berlin Wall was, indeed, a moment of great triumph, there are still many issues in Berlin that need to be addressed. 


Courtesy History.com, VOAnews