Yesterday, Nov. 9, 2014, marked the 25th anniversary of a great moment in German history: the falling of the Berlin Wall, Mauerfall (literally wall + fall). The wall had stood as a division between the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the east and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in the west for 28 years. In a surprising turn of events, on the evening of Nov. 8, a GDR official announced that travel restrictions from East to West, which had been strictly imposed since 1961, had been lifted, effective immediately. Watch this momentous announcement, delivered in an almost casual manner, in this video:
Portions of this news conference were shown in the East on West German television that evening. As the news spread like wildfire, Eastern Germans began lining up at the border in Berlin. Finally, at 11 p.m. on Nov. 8, at the Bornholmer Straße border crossing, an official gave the go-ahead to open the border and let the crowd of Ossis (slang for Eastern Germans from ost or east) cross to the west. Wessis (slang for Western Germans from west or west) on the other side were waiting with flowers and champagne and joyful celebrations broke out as people ran over the border.
Destruction of the wall began on the evening of Nov. 9, as people nicknamed Mauerspechte or wall woodpeckers chipped away at the concrete mass in Berlin. The fall of the wall was the first critical step towards reunification of Germany, which would happen officially less than a year later on Oct. 3, 1990.
In honor of this historic event, celebrations were held in Berlin yesterday. As part of a symbolic art installation, called Lichtgrenze or light border, more than 8,000 illuminated balloons were placed along the 9.5 mile path of the former Berlin wall. The balloons were released one by one into the night during the celebration.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the wall and its fall (and want to give your German comprehension a good test) you might check out this new film about the events at the Bornholmer Straße border crossing.
Another interesting film about life in divided Germany which you can watch with English subtitles is The Lives of Others or Das Leben der Anderen.