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This Happened

This Happened—November 9: Fall Of The Berlin Wall

Updated Nov. 9, 2023 at 12:45

The beginning of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which allowed East Germans to cross into the West, marked a new epoch in world history.

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Amid revolutions that led to the collapse of the Soviet-led communist bloc, the tearing down the wall on Nov. 9, 1989, is considered the symbolic end of the Cold War, culminating in the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.

Why was the Berlin Wall built?

Constructed by the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR), in 1961, the wall was designed to stop its citizens from passing from East German to the West. For decades, the Berlin wall divided the city, which had been partitioned after World War II, both physically and ideologically.

What did the Berlin Wall symbolize?

One of the most infamous symbols of the Cold War, the wall separated families and prevented East Germans from leaving, dampening the dreams of those who fell on the wrong side. Those who wanted to cross were met with guard towers with machine guns ready to shoot them if they tried to cross the “death strip”, laid with beds of nails and other booby traps. An estimated 140 people are believed to have died trying to cross into West Germany.

Why was the Berlin Wall taken down?

After 28 years of forced separation, people had become increasingly discontent living behind the wall and tensions were at their peak. After a broadcast was made by a GDR politician stating that border crossings would be allowed, people rushed to the border stops. After crowding the walls, ordinary people called “wallpeckers” descended upon the wall and began to break it down with various tools, marking the beginning of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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