When I was a child, I recall commercials about “Radio Free Europe. The terms Iron Curtain, Eastern Block and The Berlin Wall were heard but not understood.
The Berlin Wall was completed in 1961 when I was 7. All through my childhood and adolescence, I was surrounded with these terms but I was unaware what they meant.
In the summer of 1989, Austria invited Hungary to a picnic. It would require crossing a border from the east to the west. Because people from the Eastern Block could cross their borders into another Communist country, East Berliners could travel to Czechoslovakia then to Hungary. The numbers of people gathered at the Hungarian border overwhelmed the border gaurds and people were allowed to cross to the picnic.
The idea of a picnic in Austria was to test the U.S.S.R. on the resolve to maintain closed borders. There was no public reaction by any of the Communist block governments.
Once people crossed the border they were met with flowers, gifts,food, and German deutch marks. Many were persuaded to not return to their homes.
In the fall of 1989 East Berlin was economically unstable. They tried to surcure a short term loan from West Berlin but were denied.
East Berliners didn’t trust their government. The leaders debated how much to open their border to West Berlin. From all crossing open to just one crossing opened with strict sercurty. They decided on a strict limit of the border and went public on the radio to announce it. A press resease was given to a bureaucrat not privy to the debate. His paper outlined the more open border policy.
Afterward, the room was silent before one of the reporters asked,”When does this take effect?” This was close to nineteen hundred hours on November 9th. Referring again to his paper, He said,”Immediately.”
After the announcement, the official was interviewed by Tom Brokaw, for Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. This was the way most of the population learned that all the borders were open.
People on both sides of the wall gathered for the opening. Guards were confused and called for directions. Finally the size of the crowds convinced the guards to open the gates.
East and West Berliners were united. This is the day celebrated as the day the Berlin wall fell and the Cummunist block started to fracture.
During the twenty eight years of the dividing wall, two hundred people were killed trying to escape East Berlin.
Built strong,to protect and confine,
But like manmade obstacles, it was vulnerable
To people’s will
On November ninth, East and West Berliners danced on the wall’s grave.