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This Day in History

World History

Thursday, November 9, 1989. :   The Berlin Wall is opened for the first time since 1961.

     Berlin is the capital city of Germany. Following WWII, it was divided into four sectors, with sectors being controlled by the Soviet Union, USA, the UK and France. Whilst the countries initially cooperated, governing the city jointly by a commission of all four occupying armies, tensions began to increase between the Soviet Union and the western allies with the development of the Cold War. The border between East and West Germany was closed in 1952, and movement of citizens between East and West Berlin also became more restricted, particularly as people continued to defect from East Germany via West Berlin. Shoppers from East Berlin tended to make their purchases in the western sector, where goods were cheaper and more readily available. This damaged the Soviet economy, as it was subsidising East Germany's economy.

Overnight on 13 August 1961 the Eastern and Western halves of Berlin were separated by barbed wire fences up to 1.83 metres high. Over the next few days, troops began to replace the barbed wire with permanent concrete blocks, reaching up to 3.6m high. Ultimately, the wall included over 300 watchtowers, 106km of concrete and 66.5km of wire fencing completely surrounding West Berlin and preventing any access from East Germany.

The wall remained as a barrier between East and West until 1989, when the collapse of communism led to its fall. On 9 November 1989, an international press conference began in East Berlin. Huge demonstrations against political repression had been continuing for months. At the conclusion of the peace conference, greater freedom of travel was announced for people of the German Democratic Republic. At midnight, the East German government allowed gates along the Wall to be opened after hundreds of people converged on crossing points. In the ensuing weeks, many people then took to the wall with hammers and chisels, dismantling it piece by piece.

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