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The Real Reason Behind the Fall of The Berlin Wall

STORY BY: Werner Schulz
YEAR: 1989
LOCATION: Berlin, Germany

Werner is from Berlin, and shares a story about the fall of the Berlin Wall, and how mass demonstrations were significant, but not the only cause. The fall was also caused by a "total misunderstanding" at an emergency press conference held by the East German government. The Czech and Hungarians had already cut down parts of the fences that made up the 'Iron Curtain', and many East Germans were making their way to the West by going through Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria first. They were escaping rapidly, and hence the emergency press conference was held to announce the easing of travel restrictions for East Berliners. Werner tells the story as follows: Günter Schabowski - a government party official - was about to read his announcements, when NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw** asked when it was going to happen. Shabovsky looked at a note that had been handed to him earlier, which was supposed to be embargoed until the next morning. It said, more or less, "immediately". The journalists ran to their phones, and news spread rapidly by radio and TV, and by that evening, hundreds of thousands of East Germans converged at the wall. The soldiers didn't know what has happening, nor were they given any orders by their superiors. The panic went all the way up the chain to Erich Honecker**, head of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Honecker then called Soviet Premier Mikhael Gorbachev to ask what to do, and Gorbachev responded, "Clean up your own mess". ​Thanks for sharing, Werner.

**CORRECTIONS: Werner later added two omportant corrections to his story, which have been corroborated by Wikipedia. It was not Tom Brokaw who asked Schabowski the question (Brokaw only interviewed him after), but either Riccardo Ehrman or Peter Brinkmann, who were both in the front row and who have both claimed to have asked it. Also, Erich Honecker was no longer head of the GDR, it was Egon Krenz.


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