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November 9th, 2009
07:54 AM ET

Fall of the Berlin Wall: 20 years later

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which signaled the collapse of communism in Europe and eventually an end to the Cold War.

World leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are attending various ceremonies to mark the event. More than 1,000 dominoes – lining a 1.2-mile strip where the wall once stood - will be toppled over, to symbolize the domino effect the collapse had in ending communism throughout Eastern Europe.

Where were you when the wall fell? What impressions were you left with from that historic day?

Let us know. Heidi will share some of your comments in the Newsroom 9am – 11am ET.


Filed under: Heidi Collins • Josh Levs
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. citizenjournalistreview

    My husband and I went to Berlin shortly after the initial part of the wall came down. We were fortunate enough to be able to help knock portions of the wall down. I have photos of me with and East German Border Guard. He was standing in East Germany and I in West Germany. People don't realize that it was only German citizens that were allowed to move freely and the rest of us had to go through customs for quite some time. On the square in East Berlin there were cameras watching every move and this was before cameras were everywhere. It was illegal to take East German coins out of the country, but the waitress asked 'Would you like some East German coins for souveniers?'

    November 9, 2009 at 9:33 am |
  2. Brian W.

    Twenty years ago, I was 5. I don't remember everything to the letter, but I do vaguely remember watching the TV with my parents and being excited because they were excited. I remember I was confused when my parents talked about the Berlin Wall. I couldn't believe that anyone would build a physical wall across a city or a nation. It wasn't until later in life I realized just how amazing the "Fall of the Wall" really was.

    November 9, 2009 at 9:33 am |
  3. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    I remember before the wall was torn down living in the fear of the cold war and being wiped of the face of the planet with the drop and tuck methods the schools was teaching as in the event of a nuclear attack from Rusia yep those was the good ol days.

    November 9, 2009 at 9:36 am |
  4. Suzanne

    I was a first time mother of a four month old baby and it gave me such hope for her future. That she would not be raised in the world of suspicion and hatred in which I was. I literally sat in front of the television, nursing her to sleep with tears rolling down my cheeks.

    November 9, 2009 at 9:36 am |
  5. Bernadette Loesch

    Heidi, I was home watching the spectacle on TV. To this day I question how Pres. Reagan was placed in Germany at that time to make a token speech which in part stated, 'Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall'. Communism was falling apart at the time. The wall would have come down with or without Reagan there for Americans to see as a symbol of doing something important. It was pure theatrics on the part of our govenment at the time. Nothing more, nothing less. I well remember the one on one conversation between Reagan and Gorbachev when Reagan was in the throws of Alzheimers. I was both embrassed for our country and actually felt sorry for Reagan that his cabinet would put him on TV for us to witness his inability to hold an intelligent cohesive conversation.

    November 9, 2009 at 9:37 am |
  6. Brandon

    When the berlin wall came down I was 8 My father was stationed at AFCENT in the Netherlands. While I was quite young at the time I do remember my father coming home one day with some large pieces of the wall telling My sister and I what an important piece of history those were.

    November 9, 2009 at 9:39 am |
  7. Kenneth Pereira

    Wow! The Berlin wall..20 years! Makes me feel old. I stationed in Germany at that time...got a big chunk of the wall for myself which now serves as a visual aid in my sister's grade school classroom. I remember that time to be just one big party...and I remember seeing an East German family come into Burger King for the first time. They were amazed, even at the balloons that were given to their kids. What a special time...then the gulf war broke out...and here we are again!!

    November 9, 2009 at 9:42 am |
  8. Dr. Nina L. Dulabaum

    20 YEARS AGO THE BERLIN WALL FELL - ICH WAR DABEI!

    I was there :-)!

    (Yes I was born in the U.S and after graduating from Oberlin College, joined an overseas volunteer service program and was sent to the divided city in Germany.)

    After hearing the rumors circulating ... I hopped on the U-Bahn(subway) at the Free University where I was studying after serving as a volunteer in a community project in Berlin(West) for a few years and rushed to Checkpoint Charlie.

    There I saw the unfathomable right before my very own eyes!

    Trabis, roses, Sekt (German Champagne), joyful shouts, tears and a grand celebration!

    Around an hour later I rushed home to call and wake up my brother (4 am or so) in Illinois and persuade him to write a story with me and go down to the local newspaper and tell them THAT INCREDIBLE HISTORY – and NEWS – IS BEING MADE – RIGHT NOW and they have a direct link to all the action ;-)!

    It challenged people's frames of mind, politics, international strategies .... as well as everyday life for me as a student and later as a consultant, author, professor! I would have never moved to Leipzig, Germany and never met my husband had the wall not fallen!

    Since I had coordinated a program visiting families and communities in the East in the mid 80s, I knew many families who were divided and folks who were restless; some dreamed of visiting me some day "on the other side." Indeed, one young girl I met in Zwickau with her family became our babysitter in Leipzig, Germany some 10 years after the Wall fell!

    Now when I fly back to Germany to teach compact seminars on the art of dealing with conflicts - many of my students do not remember ... have no clue .. were not born.

    However, the excitement, the unfathomable, the historic and historical significance of that day live on within me! 🙂
    Nina
    Dr. Duly
    Dr. Nina L. Dulabaum

    November 9, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  9. Eric W.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Being born in the summer of 1982, I was only 7 years old when in the middle of watching one of the first episodes of The Simpsons, I believe, when it was interrupted by a "Special Report". While I was only 7 years old, my mom had taught me the difference between tyranny & freedom from a very young age and I was able to understand just what a priceless thing liberty is, as well as the nature of what I was seeing on the television in front of my eyes.

    I began crying out of happiness because I realized just what an important, historical event it was that I was witnessing. Even though I was only a 2nd grader, I still have memories of the last days of the cold war and what the true nature of living under Soviet bloc communism was. I knew of the countless families torn apart by that wall of oppression and the lives lost by those JUST TRYING TO REACH FREEDOM!

    I hope people don't forget what the Berlin Wall meant -and I say that because in a conversation with a young 15-year old high school student I had just a week ago, when I brought up the Berlin Wall...HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS OR WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT! It's not that he was stupid, by far, just uninformed with any history seemingly -both on the domestic & world front. -If it's not a shame, that here in 2009 America, a sophomore high school student has NO IDEA what the BERLIN WALL or the Soviet Union were...I don't know what is!

    November 9, 2009 at 9:53 am |
  10. Sheila Winkelspecht

    My family was at Checkpoint Charlie the night the Berlin Wall was to open. The anticipating crowd on the West side got bolder as the night wore on, pressing towards the off-limits checkpoint barriers. Soon, the soldiers hats were being whipped off their heads, and instead of trying to regain control, they resigned themselves to taking photographs of the event. When it came time for the East Berliners to be allowed over, the East German military made no headway until one of them hoisted a young boy on his shoulders, and the boy asked the crowd to part so that they could make the walk over to freedom. A path was immediately made, and East Berliners were welcomed with money, food and drink as they walked through.

    November 9, 2009 at 10:03 am |
  11. Lucy Mogensen

    Where was I? I was in a poli sci class in which the professor had just a week before sworn we wouldn't see communism end or the wall come down in our lifetimes! I enjoyed it, giving him grief over it. His response? Any one of us could have gone to an Ivy League school had we so desired! We had a good laugh over that! Boy do I miss school!

    November 9, 2009 at 10:04 am |
  12. Marleen Eddlemon

    The person that was just quoted as being so moved at the wall because of Hitler, does not know his history. The wall had nothing to do with Hitler and was erected AFGTER the second world war, as part of the Cold War. Hitler was long since dead at the time.

    November 9, 2009 at 10:21 am |
  13. Judy Borisky

    I was there. I arrived a few days after, but had the advantage of witnessing the 1st weekend when East Germans were off from work and able to stream across the opening into the West for the first time.
    Being German speaking and understanding, I was able to communicate with the people and hear their feelings. My time was spent at the Tourist Office where they came to get their housing, in the Deutsche Bank Line where they were getting their offered 50 marks to spend, and in the soup line where only East Germans were given sustenance, and the signs clearly said " Only for DDR" in German. Visiting a few days after the opening enabled me to hear the backlash of feelings that some West Germans had already begun to feel as they saw the privileges granted to the first time visitors. This was beautifully contradicted by the infinite joy of families being reunited for the first time. The visit culminated in the worldwide Freundschaft /friendship march that united people from all over the world as we all tore down that Wall. All of my life we learned that
    " Communism is bad" and " Capitalism is good". To personally witness and touch a view of optimism that only later history could validate is life changing. My photos document other than tourist scenes and I feel amazingly grateful that I managed to be in Berlin in November 1989.

    November 9, 2009 at 10:25 am |
  14. Roz

    I was a 7 year old in communist Lithuania at the time, but remember well my parents talking to other people about the impact of this event and our uncertain future. I didn't even know about Reagan's speech till i came to US in 2003, because it is only a good PR for US, with no true value to the event.. It is insulting to me when somebody says it is because of that speech that the Soviet Union went down, because so many people fought for the freedom for so long and so many lost their lives. Everybody could see it coming – it was a matter of time. Some countries (including mine) were occupied (or attempted to) again afterwards. Falling of the wall might looked good on TV, but at home we were all worried to what comes next, because the hard reality was that problems didn't end there – it was just the beginning of a long hard road to recovery.

    November 9, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  15. Tom Winkelspecht

    I was in the US Air Force stationed in Germany 1987-1991. Our family took a short trip to visit East Berlin 7, 8, 9 & 10 Nov 1989. On the evening of 9 Nov we visited East Berlin did a little shoppping, had dinner and sons walked around the city that evening. After our return to our hotel that evening we were getting ready for bed and on the news they said that the Berlin Wall would be opened this evening! Our family got back out of bed then drove back to Check Point Charlie we we spent one of the most memorable moments of our lives.

    As we stood there waiting the crowd formed, poeple crossed the yellow line that no would have every thought about crossing at any other time. Before you knew it poeple were across the yellow line all the way up to the barriers, standing on the barries! Climb on top of the Berlin Wall!! This as you know was a no no. My sons sat on top of the Berlin Wall that evening.

    Just around midnight, maybe just after, I can't remember. One of the East German border guards ask everyone to clear a path for the East German people to walk from the east to the west. The crowd was so noisy that no took much notice of him. I remember he lifted a young boy out of the crowd and stood him on top of a platform, the crowd went silent long enough for the little boy to ask the crowd to make a path. Shortly after the East German's started walking freely from the East to the West. Some with the suitcases, some just coming for the night other had no plans to return, they were leaving with all they could carry.

    The next day on our way home to West Germany there were hundreds of small East German cars, can't remember their names, but you could tell the cars were not western. They were very small, smoked alot, but they were full of smiles and waves. It was a very special day.

    Just last night I wrote to my sons to remind them where they were on the wonderful evening. I guess that was our 15 minutes of fame!

    November 9, 2009 at 11:07 am |
  16. Frank

    Heidi:

    I grew up with the Berlin Wall. It separated a very large part of my family for 28 years. My mother fled East Berlin in 1958 and went to live with a sister in West Germany before meeting my father and emigrating to the United States in 1961.

    As a family, we crossed over the East German border many times to visit family members that were not allowed to visit us, either in West Germany or the U.S. As a child, it was very intimidating and scary to have our belongings searched by the communist troops and to crossover "No mans land" on the train, seeing the guard dogs on the platforms. I can still see it in my mind.

    My last trip across the border was in 1987, at the age of 22. As a young adult, I knew the wall would not stand forever, I always believed change would come. I never believed it would happen within 2 years.

    Unfortunately, my father passed away in 1988. Nothing would have given him more joy than to know that the wall would come down just over a year later.

    On November 9, 1989, I was driving home from work and heard the news on the radio. I had to pull over as I could not believe what I was hearing. I went to my mom's house and found her in front of the TV, tears in her eyes as we both watched events unfold. Later that evening, we placed a call to my aunt who was the mayor of a small city in East Germany. It took us hundreds of attempts to get a connection but we finally did and when she heard my voice the first words out of her mouth were "Frank, die Grenzen sind auf" (The borders are open.") I can still hear her jubilation and excitement to this day in my memories.

    It reunited our entire family and allowed so many people a freedom they did not believe would come.

    Thank you for allowing me to share my memories of that very eventful day!

    November 9, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  17. Yazan N

    Hello, wow 20 years ago, the Berlin wall fell, but In Palestine, Israel has built a wall that is double the hight of the Berlin wall, separating people from families, schools, jobs, and hospitals. I just think that the wall in Palestine should be mentioned.

    November 9, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  18. Marlene

    Not quite right about Hitler and the wall. The wall and the demarcation line from the Baltic down to Bavaria, which divided East Germany (German Democratic Republic) and West Germany (Federal Republik of Germany) and the wall in Berlin, surrounding West Berlin entirely were following events from the aftermath of WWII. Germany after Hitler, was divided like a piece of cake by the allies and the Soviet Union. West Germany stayed in British, American and French hands, East Germany went to the Soviet Union. Same with Berlin: the West part of Berlin itself was divided into French, British and American sectors. East Berlin a n d East Germany stayed occupied by the Red Army since 1945 without fence and wall until 1961. Sure, the communists 'built' the anti fascism wall in 1961, as they called it, but the country was divided right after the end of WWII in 1945 and the cause was Hitler. The German people in East and West had to carry the tragic consequenses of what happened thereafter.
    Oh please, don't give me the crap about Gorbatschow, same with Reagan or Kenndey, all big talk. Gorbatschow was more a communist than anyone on this earth. The truth is: the people, the Volk in East Germany were on the streets for months before the wall came down, fearing nothing, not jail or threats, they wanted a change, wanted their freedom. For months they gathered in churches, walked through the streets of Leipzig and other big cities, where thousands yelled: we are the people: Wir sind das Volk. This has been totally swept under the carpet. Gorbatschow however did one thing right: he didn't do anything. If anyone needs to pat somebody on the back. It has to be the Soviet Army Officers in Berlin who kept still and patiently waited for the outcome and, who had no orders or support of any kind from Moscow and Gorbatschow in those days.
    I'm a Brit, lived in Berlin for many years and I can't believe that many people (some who have served in Berlin) do not know that the 'wall' not only surrounded West Berlin; they knew nothing about the demarcation line that parted the two German Countries.
    I think we should always look at history, not only this historic event, from all sides.
    Marlene

    November 9, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  19. Trish Tatterson

    I was in Germany as part of a world tour with Cast E of UP WITH PEOPLE when the Berlin Wall came down. It was wonderful, exciting, scary and tearful, sitting with a host family who hadn't seen their relatives in years and watching the news where people were climbing the wall and crossing barbed-wire fences, running to freedom. Just a few days before, we had crossed Checkpoint Charlie into East Germany and seen the breadlines, the old grey cars, the generic food stores with practically nothing while on the other side in W.Germany we'd had everything. I'd walked along that wall, feeling the division of people and barriers to love. I'd been so welcomed into their homes, their streets. Why couldnt THEY be together? Then, on this day, 20 years ago, day and night turned into a new morning for all people to come together; the beginning of the end of the Cold War. I now own a real piece of an ugly rock will forever cherish my year of travel through many, many countries where we shared peace and understanding amongst all people. UP WITH PEOPLE, down with walls. And yes, UWP still exists.

    November 9, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  20. Candy-Jo Kerbin

    As airmen stationed in West Berlin in '80-'81, my husband and I tried to walk along as much of the Berlin Wall as possible! It was quite awesome and disturbing at the same time. Our son, Josh was born there and will be 28 on 23 Nov. At the time he was our Thanksgiving Day baby! I was back there in 2005 with my daughter, Lindsay and was so disoriented because I had based all my directions and landmarks on The Wall while we lived there! I have a small piece of The Wall that was sent to me by a friend who was still stationed there in the AF when it actually fell.

    November 9, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  21. Phyllis Pentecost

    Seeing the Berlin Wall come down was one of the was one of the most exciting things in my family's life. In November of 1990, we were sharing Thanksgiving with my son who was in school in London. We got word that there was a charter flight going to Berlin to see the Wall come down. When we got on the plane full of Brits with chisels and hammers, we knew they were going to help take it down. Even thought the weather was cold and raining, it was a party. People were chipping away at the wall. When they got done.....many would leave their hammer and chisels for others to use. We used them.....got pieces of the Wall, it is a time I will never forget.

    November 9, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  22. June Coan

    I was only four years old when the wall fell, but it means a lot to my family. We actually own two pieces of the Berlin Wall. Part of my heritage is German, but also I am a fourth generation Danish immigrant. Part of my family originated from Denmark and they got out of there before the war or during it. It's a real big historical moment for my family, but others who were inflicted as well all over the world.

    November 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  23. Abe

    It is a great day to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the coming down of the Berlin wall. The coming together of families split up by the wall and the political ideology that separated the West from the East. Greta job by all who were involved in making this day a reality. So now we can go forward and put all our political leaders in the world to bring an end to the political and strategic differences we are facing in the twentieth century. I understand we have a bigger wall to bring down but if we put our minds together we can also bring peace to the world so we can all live together in peace. Mr. Josh you do a great job informing people and keep up the good work.

    November 9, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  24. David

    I remember the wall in Berlin coming down as a boisterous and joyful event, I remember seeing on tv the crowds gathered around the wall and the sight of people passing back and forth through gaps that had been opened up. That's what I remember a bit vague, I know. I did not fully understand it, and am learning about those events even now as you are reporting on it. That is, learning how it impacted families, the flow of events leading up to the wall coming down, the building pressures. I do sort of know about those things, but have a lot to find out. One thing that stands out to me, at the time and now, is the wall came down peaceably in front of onlookers who came to see and take part in the dismantling. As such that made it a tremendously welcome celebration. My view Heidi.

    November 9, 2009 at 8:33 pm |
  25. Dave Jordan

    Josh, you forgot to mention the Korean War. when talking about surviving veterans. Please correct!!!

    November 11, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  26. Laith A

    A great day indeed. I cant wait to see the day the Israeli wall separating Israelis from Palestinians is destroyed.

    Until then, the horror of the Berlin Wall lives on.

    November 13, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  27. David

    It takes work all around for a wall like that to come down.

    November 14, 2009 at 4:07 pm |