The Berlin Wall, often called the “Wall of Shame” and a symbol of the Iron Curtain of the Cold War, was torn down on November 9, 1989, two years after President Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
Free Travel For East Germans
When Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, the Cold War began to thaw in East Germany and finally, on November 9, 1989, an East Berlin official announced that citizens of the GDR (East Germany) would be allowed to cross the country's borders freely and would also be allowed “permanent departure.” The idea was that exit visas or passports would be issued freely, but there was a lot of confusion about what exactly he meant. Nevertheless, thousands of East and West Berliners flocked to both sides of the wall and started to press forward toward it. The guards were not sure what was expected of them and finally opened the gate for the East Berliners to pass freely for the first time in almost three decades.
Greatest Street Party
What followed was regarded by journalists as the world's “greatest street party” as Germans were celebrating in Berlin's streets. East Germans who crossed the border each received 100 marks as a welcome gift - there were over 800,000 of them on the first day. People also took chisels and hammers to the wall and started chipping away at it, tearing it down piece by piece. Many saved the pieces for souvenirs and are still found in German gift shops today. Cranes and bulldozers also joined in and pulled down the wall section by section. On October 3, 1990 the reunification of East and West Germany was finally made official.
This article is part of our larger collection of resources on the Cold War. For a comprehensive outline of the origins, key events, and conclusion of the Cold War, click here.