A tide flooding the bridge 128

Here’s part of an eyewitness report of the day the Berlin Wall came down:

Then came the now-famous press conference given by Günter Schabowski, the East German Politburo member and ex-editor of the Communist Party newspaper Neues Deutschland. Mr Schabowski, yellow and utterly exhausted, sat on a podium before the world’s media and read out utterly confusing details of the regime’s draft travel law – including the announcement that the right to travel to the West came into force immediately.

Within about an hour the first West German reports started coming in about East Germans gathering at crossing points. We leapt into a car and raced to the centre of Berlin. The watchtowers and guard houses were manned with their customary Kalashnikov-toting sentries. There was nothing to report.

Following the Wall northwards, we wound through a maze of dimly lit streets until we began to see single people walking towards us. Single people turned into groups. We thought: “They are just inquisitive West Berliners taking a look.” But then the groups turned into a small crowd and we had to park the car and start walking.

What confronted us at the Bornholmer bridge was beyond belief: a vast tide of people, some in tears, many just looking stunned, flooding across. Behind them were the huge glaring arc lights, guard huts, raised barriers and a line of puffing Trabant and Wartburg cars. Two East German border guards stood there looking bewildered. One, I remember, was crying. With no orders from above, the guards had simply buckled under the pressure of a 20,000 strong crowd of East Berliners chanting “Open the gate!” and raised the barriers.

Posted under communism, Germany, liberty by Jillian Becker on Monday, November 9, 2009

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