Fall of the Berlin Wall

The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of the most significant events in recent German history. Spurred on by various events, it was certainly a major political moment that involved more than just German residents. Pitted against one another on the grand scale were democracy and communism. These same forces combined to dictate much of twentieth century history, and you might refer to the fall of the Berlin Wall as the point when one finally managed to supercede the other. The victor, as most historians would agree, was democracy.

Berlin Wall history is quite interesting. Much of the interest lies in what led to its eventual destruction. After the wall was built, communist East Germany became separated from the capitalistic and democratic West Germany, and the city of Berlin was subject to the same fate. Over time, the quality of life on the western side became better than the quality of life on the eastern side. The overall mood of the East German citizens understandably soured, and many countries around the world came to look down upon the Berlin Wall themselves. Basically, it was a barrier to freedom. One of the main things that caught the world’s attention was the fact that East German guards were allowed to shoot anyone who tried to cross the wall.

In 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited the Berlin Wall. Afterwards, no real attempt was made to influence the East German government to tear the wall down. Instead, the U.S. government chose to simply let things be. This stance eventually weakened, however. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan made his famous speech at the Berlin Wall, with the most memorable line from said speech being, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

By 1989, many East German residents became tired of their living situation and everything that the Berlin Wall stood for. Thousands looked to escape their homeland through such countries as Hungary and Austria, and those who stayed behind organized protest demonstrations. Communism in general was faltering at the time, so the East German government was losing leverage.

Finally, on November 9, 1989, a government official from East Germany announced that East Germans could relocate as they pleased, even if it meant crossing the Berlin Wall. Huge crowds gathered around the wall to celebrate, and many people started chipping away at the barrier immediately. Images of these celebrations are among the most iconic images of the twentieth century, and it should be noted that on October 3, 1990, West Germany and East Germany officially reunified and became one single country again.

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