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Back in the Day: the wind of change blows down the Berlin Wall

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Back in the Day: the wind of change blows down the Berlin Wall


November 9, 1989. Berliners begin to cross the Berlin Wall freely, 28 years, two months and 28 days after construction began and passage from East to West Berlin was forbidden. The wall was built in 1961 by communist Eastern Bloc authorities, who said they wanted to prevent fascist influence on their people, although the more practical purpose was to stop people in the East defecting to western Europe. Throughout 1989, the political situation in the Eastern Bloc underwent massive change. In August communist Hungary effectively opened its borders, allowing thousands of East Germans to leave for the West via Austria. In September protests began to swell in East Germany for all borders to become open. On November 9, the communist party leader in East Berlin, Gunter Schabowski, announced all previously closed crossing points would be open in Berlin and in the rest of Germany. The official plan was to open them the following day, but Schabowski had not been fully briefed and told the press the effect was immediate. Throughout that night, East Berliners flocked to the wall and climbed into West Berlin without the fear of being shot.

November 9 was already of particular significance for Germans, who often refer to it as Schicksalstag, or ‘day of destiny’: it was on the same date that revolutionary Robert Blum was executed (1848), the Weimar Republic was declared (1918), Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch was quashed (1923) and the Nazi’s began the Kristallnacht camapign of violence against Jews (1938).

Also on November 9 publication of the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine (1967); death of General Charles de Gaulle (1970); Garry Kasparov beats Anatoly Karpov to become the world’s youngest World Chess Champion (1985); capital punishment is abolished for all crimes in the United Kingdom (1998).

Born on November 9 Jean Monnet (1888), Roger McGough (1937), Luis Felipe Scolari (1948), Fernando Meirelles (1955), Alessandro Del Piero (1974).

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