Andreas
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November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 5:38 pm

Yes, friends and neighbours, today November 9th, 15 years ago, the iron curtain finished its miserable life in Berlin, starting with a funny little press conference on the 9 o’clock news of “Aktuelle Kamera”, and 2 hours later, one of the most hardliner Soviet satellite state was history, and with it the Berlin Wall and as a nice little extra, the whole iron curtain crumbled to pieces.

That was the only time in my life when I was actually a little bit proud to be German, because it was and still is one of the great historical achievements (IMHO) that they did this without firing one shot.

Most of you will know the story of 1989, how it started during the summer, so I guess it’s useless to post it, just let me remind you of some milestones during that summer that I will never forget:

1. The scene at the German embassy in Prague, where 6,000 East Germans lived under sub-human conditions, when German secretary of state Genscher went up on the balcony and said something like “…darf Ihnen mitteilen, dass heute Ihre Ausreise…”, the rest went under in a collective scream, they cheered so loud, no more words could be heard.
2. The GDR government had negotiated that the trains that should bring these 6,000 to West Germany should drive through GDR stations slowly, to make a political statement…can you imagine the terror of those people inside the trains? But then, they rolled through Dresden…and there were thousands of people cheering like mad, making a statement of their own!!
3. During October, the demonstrations in Berlin brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets, their motto was “Wir sind das Volk” (WE are the people), and as was found out later, Erich Honecker had signed the order to bring down the crowd by violence, ordering tanks to Alexanderplatz. The order got stuck somewhere in the middle of the chain of command, it never reached the tank commanders and the commanders of the Volkspolizei (who had already downright refused to shoot).
4. Also in October Erich “ick liebe Euch doch alle” Mielke signed an order to bring down the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig by chemical warfare…here as well, the order just faded away while being handed down the chain of command (and those who know Stasi-Mielke: These people virtually put their own lives to risk!!)
5. And finally that press conference with Politbureau-Member Guenther Schabowski speaking of the freedom of media and the freedom to travel freely….and somebody asked “and when will this happen??” And Onkel Guenther (he’s now an after dinner speaker in Berlin, a very funny one, and they call him Onkel Guenther) says “Keene Ahnung, da steht hier nüscht, ick würde mal sajen, ab sofort, wa?” in broad Berliner slang, meaning “no idea, they didn’t tell me, I’d say, right now”.

…and 2 hours later, the GDR was history (actually it was 11 months later, but in fact it dies that night)!! Thousands dancing on top of the wall (like myself Big grin), ten thousands standing around on the Kurfuerstendamm, looking as if they just woke up from a strange dream, then the first bottles of champagne and “Rotkaeppchensekt” went around, and then the real party started, just to be repeated the next night and the next…
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Thom@s
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 7:19 pm

How time flies...  Smile Not that I remember the above as it happened though.. Big grin

Thom@s
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mdsh00
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain

Tue Nov 09, 2004 7:34 pm

I dont remember in all that detail that you do since I was 8 years old. I do remember watching CNN and seeing the people pounding away at the wall and eventially bringing down a peice of it. At that age I thought that the wall separated the entire East and West Germany!  Nuts

I do however have a vivid memory of the fall of the USSR and specifically remember watching the tv showing the changing of the flag.
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MD11Engineer
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 7:44 pm

Don´t stone me, but I was sleeping through this night, even though I was just living 2 miles away from the wall back then. I had a hard day working (it was a friday) and next morning, when I travelled by bus and underground from my place in Neukölln to my parent´s place in Lichterfelde, I wondered about all the Trabbis and the smell of two stroke exhaust. At my parent´s place, I finaly got a newspaper.

Jan
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Scotty
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 8:10 pm

Andreas. I was in Munich a few days later and remember the headline in a newspaper "Berlin hat Freiheit"

Amazing times - I wish I had been on that wall with you.
 
Andreas
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 8:44 pm

Thx Scotty, and I can tell you it was amazing!!!

I was living in a student's home on Potsdamer Strasse, about 400 meters away from the wall, and I was basically prepared to go to bed or wait for some friends to call and drive to Kreuzberg to our former favorite pub, "Strings", and have one of our usual Berlin nights, that didn't usually end before 8 o'clock in the morning Big grin

We phoned each other up, talked about it, didn't know what to do with it, but by then, the first news about Bernauer Strasse started to trickle in, that people were gathering there, and then that were actually people coming through FROM THE EAST!!!! *gasp*

We felt that might be history in the making and got our cars and started to drive around (BIIIIIG mistake, as it turned out  Big grin Big grin) and, well...the rest is indeed history.

Even remembering this nowadays, 15 (!!) years later, leaves me somewhat flabbergasted and, looking at the TV specials that are shown on German TV thesedays, somewhat leaky around the eyes Big grin
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Andreas
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 8:54 pm

Mdsh00: But you were right!! That wall separated both countries over the entire length of the borderline except where rivers did the job! It wasn't a wall at all places but sometimes a fence, too, but basically you are right!
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Scotty
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 9:08 pm

Andreas

During summer I met a chap from the East of Berlin who was working in a hotel in Scotland. He told me that on the night, he was listening to radio broadcasts in his room, and went down to the Brandenburg Gate early in the morning. He got over to the west, even though they fully expected the East guards to open fire or at least stop them from going through. He bought a couple of bottles of West German beer, took them home to his house and put them on the kitchen table. His father, who recalled the "liberation" by the Red Army, the Berlin airlift, and the day the wall went up, got up from his bed, looked at the beers and said to the son "my God, where HAVE you been"?

When it was explained, the father and the rest of the family were in tears and the father said "at last the war is over".
 
Andreas
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 9:19 pm

Right, that was the first time I drank East German Rotkaeppchen (little red riding hood-)Sekt...and it wasn't much fun...the girl who shared it with me onthe other hand Big grin Big grin Big grin...became my first East German girl friend!!! Very exotic, I can tell you!!
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ovelix
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain

Tue Nov 09, 2004 9:40 pm

Andreas, congratulations to your country and your city of course which I consider one of the more beautiful cities in Europe.

I happen to have read many books about WW2 and I was always sorry when it came to the destruction of the city and the suffering of the people. And after the 1933-1945 tyranny there comes another for another 45 years. The older Berliners must have incredible courage to endure all these. Kudos to you my friend and your generation of "new" Berliners and Germans who represent the true new European vision. Just one note: Never forget and never dismiss your history. Good or bad, it's there to teach us lessons and make us remember.
 
Delboy
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 9:53 pm


I was in Berlin the day before and was amazed by the city. All round the 'wall' there were East German soldiers selling their military uniforms from wallpaper tables...it was amazing!!
 
Andreas
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 10:28 pm

Delboy: These are Russians Big grin Big grin Big grin The east Germans have long since sold all East German memorabilia they ever owned.

Ovelix: Well the old Berliners are those who took it quite easy, at least the West Berliners. It was a non-disputable fact that the city was virtually dying, younger people went to West Germany, and the only young people coming to town were students (like myself), who left town after their diplomas, since there were no jobs for them inside Berlin.
This behaviour left the city somewhat paralyzed even after the wall came down...people were used to be financially pampered by the federal government, but suddenly this cash inflow stopped...but that is another story, I'm afraid!

I do not dismiss the history of Germany, I never did and I never will. But I do have problems feeling "proud" about being a German, or male, or white or whatever...maybe this is something German, a leftover from 3rd Reich, but I still see no point in being proud of the way or the place you were accidentally born. But one needs to learn lessons from history, that much is certain!!
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fraT
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:15 pm

Good post Andreas.

I just heard that one third of all Germans do not know what happened on the 9th of November 1989. That is a shame. Unfortunately the German government decided to have our national holiday on the day of the reunification (3rd of October). I'm sure many Germans would prefer the 9th of November.

I was in Berlin in June of 89 with my school class. This was five months before the wall came down and nothing, absolutely nothing gave a hint of what would happen later that year. We went to East Berlin and it was so depressing.

On November 9th I came home from Basketball practice and saw my father in tears with a glass of champagne sitting in front of the TV. He was born and raised in East Germany and came to the west days before the Soviets closed the border.
 
MD11Engineer
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:06 am

People,

just don´t forget that November 9th is also the anniversary of the November Revolution in Germany in 1918, which ended WW1 (when the sailors of the German Navy rebelled against an order to sail for a last glorious suicide battle against the Royal Navy, and soon joined forces with fed up soldiers and workers)
and the infamous "Reichskristallnacht" of 1938, when Nazi thugs stormed and destroyed Jewish property all over Germany and imprisoned and killed hundreds of opponents.

Jan
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Andreas
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:23 am

FraT: No I guess nobody in his right mind was able to predict what was about to happen. It started to dawn on us that something might be about to happen during October, when more and more people went to demonstrate, and the Staatsrat was no more able to act, but only to re-act.

Probably the most exciting time of my life, I can assure you, not exactly better than sex but pretty close....and much much longer  Big grin Big grin

btw: November 9th would be much better, because everybody has good memories, THAT was the historical date. October 3rd, though, is the day most people associate with Solidaritätszuschlag and Helmut Kohl singing the national anthem...in other words: bad memories Big grin
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NoUFO
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain

Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:43 am

Yes, November 9th is a fateful day in German history.

In 1989, I studied in Hamburg and witnessed the fall of the Iron Curtain on TV. It was a live broadcast of what I call "accelerated history". Within hours, the world had dramatically changed.

Hopefully, we will never see history in its negative acceleration.
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NoUFO
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain

Wed Nov 10, 2004 1:23 am

And tourists wonder where the wall is.  Big thumbs up


Spiegel
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Andreas
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 1:46 am

And before Kirkie starts to posts nonsense (as usual):
That's neither myself nor friends nor relatives of mine on this pic!


And boy, that bloody thing was SO HARD!!!!! Quality made in East Germany...the best they ever built!!!  Big grin
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NoUFO
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain

Wed Nov 10, 2004 3:13 am

Andreas, you missed an occasion to claim that the cutie in the middle is/was your girl.
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commander_rabb
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 3:44 am

The one group of people that could possibly be as happy as the Germans seeing the Berlin Wall fall piece by piece are we Americans.

It was great to see the wall being chipped away with all kinds of tools wielded by ecstatic Germans that night.

Do any of you Germans have a piece of the wall today?

It was a great day!

 
andz
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 4:02 am

I was visiting my grandmother in Leeds at the time, she had a tiny flat so I was sleeping on the couch, I remember turning on the TV in the morning and hardly believing what I was seeing.

There is a segment of the wall outside the BMW Imax Cinema at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
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Andreas
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 4:36 am

Not my taste, Nobby  Big grin Big grin I like C Cups or above Big grin

C_R: Yes as a matter of fact I do...and I worked real hard for it Big grin Big grin Big grin
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777heavy
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 5:10 am

Andreas

Many thx for remembering these historical moment. 15 years ago where has the time gone? I just read the Spiegel online chronicle.

Unfortunately 1989 I was just 11 years old and cant remember everything. But I think my parents and I sat at home and watched Onkel Guenthers famous press conference Smile/happy/getting dizzy
On the 11th of November (Saturday) I visited Berlin-West for the first time. We got our 100DM welcome money in a savings-bank in Berlin-Wannsee after surviving a very long queue. And on our way home - we had to walk all the long way from Wannsee train station to the Glienicker Bridge because all buses were overcrowded - an elderly woman gave us 20DM. Unbelievable!

Im very glad that I was allowed to be a part of these great times.

Daniel

Well done Germany!
 
commander_rabb
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 5:14 am

Andreas

Could you share how you got a piece of the wall and what you did that night?

You are part of history and that is wonderful. Please tell your story.
 
Boeing757/767
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 5:17 am

I was in college in 1989 and following the events with fascination. Then, one afternoon, I was doing some homework in my room when a friend called and yelled: "Turn on the TV!!!"

I sat in amazement, my jaw open and a tear in my eye.
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ltbewr
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 5:49 am

I am an American, and visited Berlin on 3 trips to Germany in 1987, June 1990 and 2000. The experiences of seeing the Wall and Berlin over those three visits were among the highlights of my travels in Germany I was about 8 when most of the wall went up in a short time in about 1961-1962 (?). It was big news in the USA then, and since attending a Catholic grade school at the time, made it bigger that these heathen 'commie' devils were putting up that wall.
1987 - I saw the wall in place on both sides in 1987, taking a tour of East Berlin with 'handlers' and seeing samples of the museums. I recall standing at the back of the Reichstalg (?) looking over the wall and giving the one finger salute to the East German guards. I recall seeing near the Reichstalg crosses for those who didn't make it to the West side of the wall trying to escape. I recall all of those smoke spewing 'Trabbies'. Very interesting, and the first and only time ever would be in a then 'commiunist' country/place. Was also time of a census of West Germany, and much of the grafetti on the wall was on that census, along with many other comments as to the wall itself and other political commentary. I had also taken the train through East Germany from the Border (near Wolfsburg to Berlin) so had that experience too.
The fall - Nov. 9, 1989 - Saw the fall of the wall and the end of the 'DDR' on the TV here in the USA. It was all over the news here. I was glad to see something so hated and hateful be brought down.
June 1990 - The wall had mostly become pieces sold as souviners. Soldiers will selling their badges, hats, uniforms all over the city, on both sides. There was still a fence, still had to go through Checkpoint Charlie (would be dismantled a few weeks later). Used the equivilent of US$5.00 for Lunch, transportation, a soda, admission to a museum (the one with the archelogical ruins in it) for my day in the East. I walked thourgh the 'hall of the people' (?) up and down the main streets of the East. I also saw the Wall Museum on the west side near Checkpoint Charlie. The difference was breathtaking.
April 2000 - The wall is just a line of bricks in most areas I saw. Most of the area near the wall is redeveoped, or in the process. One can drive/walk through the Brandenberg Gate without stopping. The East area has returned to it's pre-WWI grandure. Visited several museums on both sides of the city which were excellent. Walked for miles around the old East side, amazed by the difference from 1987 to 1990 to 2000.
 
Yu138086
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 10:05 am

So what is there to see at the sight now?

Cheers?
 
sccutler
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:59 pm

Andreas, I recall it well and recall that I was moved at the gravity of waht I was watching from across the Atlantic.

My sister lived in Berlin for some time (she was a dancer with the Berlin Ballet), had many stories to tell and was (of course) ecstatic at the fall of the wall.

Thanks for sharing your recollections, especially valuable for those who know little of these times.
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RayChuang
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain

Wed Nov 10, 2004 4:04 pm

I remember seeing the scene of the Berlin Wall falling on CNN that fateful night on 9 November 1989. It was a sight that I will never forget.  Big thumbs up

By the way, the History Channel cable channel here in the USA showed a great program that went into great detail about how the Wall finally fell. That night was a bit frightening because there was a VERY good chance that the East German border guards could have opened fire on the crowd at the Brandenberg Gate and some 10,000 Soviet troops were ready to storm into East Berlin to restore order.  Wow!
 
eg777er
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 7:08 pm

I've seen the film Good-bye Lenin! and thought it was very good....how accurate of a representation of the time is it?
 
bill142
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Wed Nov 10, 2004 8:06 pm

I do however have a vivid memory of the fall of the USSR and specifically remember watching the tv showing the changing of the flag.

Thats about all I remeber of that period as well. I don't remember much or anything about the wall coming down as I was only 5 at the time. However I have since seen images of happy germans (I assume) on top of the wall with sledge hammers and who knows what else going at the wall to get rid of it.
 
Andreas
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Thu Nov 11, 2004 5:57 pm

Good morning,

sorry couldn't answer right away, sometimes I must make some money  Big grin

Well thx for your interest in this historical moment, I certainly consider this to be one of the alltime-highlights of my life!

Well I did get my pieces of the wall not during the first night but in the weeks to follow...and it was hard work because that bloddy thing was extremely well built and hard like no other wall I ever worked on (not that I do that on a regular basis), we hammered away like crazy on some part of the wall in Kreuzberg, and finally we brought our harvest home  Big grin...and aching arms for somes days, too Big grin

ad Soviet Army: I'm not quite sure if this correct. Of course there was danger that the Soviets might step in to restore GDR order during the largest demonstration in East Berlin, but Gorbatchev had made very clear earlier that year that he doesn't approve of Honecker's hardliner regime.

I suppose this might have been one of the reasons why some middle guys on the chain of command suppressed the order of the ZK to open fire and use chemical weaponry.

And trust me: On that night, no GDR"Volkspolizist" would have opened fire either on the East Germans nor on us West Germans on the wall, even though there were some water guns ready to shoot..they didn't, they decided to have a few drinks with us all, and some of these guys were bawling like kids, too.

And during that night they had another shock: When those crazy, and probably totally shitfaced East Germans CAME BACK home (just to get to the West again the next day, but by then, all checkpoints were open anyway and those visa were given away freely, but most didn't get one, and didn't need one!!!


One last memory: On December 22nd, I drove home to my parents place in South Germany to spend christmas with the family, the motorway was still a transit autobahn, and as usual we got our visa upon leaving West Berlin, just one for the whole car (4 people inside). To get around those traffic jams we used the checkpoint Herleshausen Wartha (Frankfurt direction). The guy there took that visa, didn't even want to look at our passports, smiled and said "A safe trip home and a merry Christmas to you and your families"...which made me realise that it was over for good!

And that was 15 years ago...time has a way to run very fast...  Big grin
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MD11Engineer
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:00 am

AFAIK; Gorbatchev made it clear to Honnecker during their last meeting during the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of East Germany about one month earlier that the Western Group of the Soviet Forces would interfere if the East German government ordered their troops and police to open fire on the demonstrators (by then there were almost weekly demonstrations e.g. in Leibzig). Concering that there was almost half a million of Russian soldiers in East Germany at this time, I think it made many officials think twice.
The only bitter part concerning the fall of the wall I´ve got in memory, were some East Germans coming to West Berlin who told us to kick out the (mainly Turkish) immigrants so that they could get their apartments and jobs.

Andreas, I still have two peaces of the wall somewhere in my garage. I picked them up at Sonnenallee.

BTW, November 9th is also the date of Hitler´s failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, an attempt to forcibly take over the government of Bavaria with the help of his Storm Troopers. The coup d´etat failed after Bavarian police opened fire and the army didn´t join Hitler as expected and Hitler got sentenced to ten years jail, of which he only served one. During this time he wrote his infamous book "Mein Kampf".

November 9th has a lot of history attached to it, quite a bit of it bad, so I think this is the reason this day wasn´t chosen as a public holiday.

Jan
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Andreas
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:07 am

Jan, I guess it was always clear that Gorbatchev did pull a lot of strings in the backstage area...what makes me still wonder after all those years: Not one shot was fired to bring down the wall for good.

My pieces of the wall are now on the shelf in parents living room!

btw: One thing made me angry like hell: Juli 1990, WC final Rome, we won (deservedly after kicking out those horrible Engelaenders), hundreds of thousands of people in Berlin cheering...and there were EAST GERMANS joining us pretending that it was their title, too!!!! Unbelievable!!!!  Big grin
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commander_rabb
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:48 am

Andreas, thanks for sharing your story. An Amazing few days!
 
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RE: November 9th 1989: The Night The Iron Curtain Fell

Fri Nov 12, 2004 4:21 am

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" -Ronald Reagan

I remember it vividly as well, but was stateside.

I few years ago, one of my best friends, who was an Army kid and went to school in Berlin, shared a chunk of the wall that he had with me.

It sits in my den at home, always a reminder to me of what freedom is all about.  Smile

We must never forget.

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