25 Years Ago: The Berlin Wall Crumbled

Fall of the Berlin Wall

Fall of the Berlin Wall. West Berlin, Germany, November, 1989. (Alexandra Avakian/Contact Press Images)

On the night of Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. East German authorities opened the border between East and West Berlin and the door to the fall of tyranny. The wall went up in the early morning darkness of Aug. 13, 1961, to keep millions of people from fleeing communist East Germany after World War II. It fell as suddenly as it had been built.

For 28 years, Germany was a country divided not only by ideology but by stone, barbed wire and deadly force. The Berlin Wall — die Mauer — stood as a testament to the eternal struggle between open and closed societies. For all its might, the wall could not stop the free flow of news into East Berlin. The west side of the wall became a stage for politicians and a canvas for artists. The east side grew grimmer, as social and economic problems worsened. In the end, people rose in protest.

When the wall finally crumbled, there was dancing and celebration. But the wall’s toll could not be forgotten: Nearly 200 people died trying to escape; more than 30,000 political prisoners were jailed. Today, the fallen wall is a memorial to their sacrifice, one of the world’s great symbols of the victory of freedom over oppression.

The eight, 12-foot-high segments of the Berlin Wall in the Newseum’s Berlin Wall Gallery weigh 2.5 tons each and came from throughout Berlin. The Newseum acquired the pieces in 1993, along with the three-story East German guard tower that stood near Checkpoint Charlie. How did the Newseum get these artifacts? It started with a news story in The New York Times. Learn more in an April 2013 episode of our Newseum Podcast.

Download or listen to the episode now!

On Saturday, Nov. 8, the Newseum will mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with Fall of the Wall Day, a day of exclusive events commemorating the rise and fall of this powerful symbol of oppression.

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