This year of 2009 marks a couple of anniversaries calling for celebration, like NATO’s 60th birthday that President Obama traveled to Europe earlier this month in part to commemorate, or likewise the 60th birthday of the Federal Republic of Germany coming up next month. There will be the 220th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, which set off the French Revolution, on July 14th – and then of course, a bit more fresh in the mind, the twentieth anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and the liberation of Eastern Europe from Soviet domination that that symbolized, coming up in November.
As we approach that latter celebration, a tiny but interesting detail has emerged concerning the exact sequence of events behind that “Fall of the Wall” on the evening (Central European Time) of 9 November, 1989. What that was basically all about was a massive swarm of citizens of East Berlin flooding to the Wall crossing-points – and then, indeed, over the border into West Berlin as they desired – motivated by the widespread belief that, in a drastic break from previous policy, the East German authorities would henceforth actually allow them to cross rather than shooting or at least arresting them, as would have previously been the case ever since the Wall’s erection starting on 13 August 1961. That understanding stemmed from a statement at a news conference just earlier that evening by Günter Schabowski, a member of the East German Politburo, to the effect that the full Politburo had decided to introduce a new travel policy allowing free movement by East German citizens to the West – whose coming-into-effect was said to be “immediate.” (more…)