Asked about the timing, the unbriefed propaganda minister mumbled: “As far as I know, effective immediately.” When that was reported on television, the Berliners were off. Baffled border guards who would have shot their “comrades” a week earlier let the crowd through—and a barrier that had divided the world was soon being gleefully dismantled. West Germany’s chancellor, Helmut Kohl, was so unready for history that he was out of the country.
The destruction of the Iron Curtain on November 9th 1989 is still the most remarkable political event of most people’s lifetimes: it set free millions of individuals and it brought to an end a global conflict that threatened nuclear annihilation. For liberals in the West, it still stands as a reminder both of what has been won since and what is still worth fighting for.
The Economist has two excellent articles about the wall. “So much gained, so much to lose” and “Walls in the mind.” They do a great job of capturing both the ups and downs of the chaos that has replaced the Politburo and its puppets.
It’s also worth remembering that it’s the
61st 71st anniversary of Kristalnacht.