Fall of the Berlin Wall, from the archive: The day the Iron Curtain broke open

Eventually, East Germany accepted the inevitable. Patricia Clough reported the news

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The Independent Online

From The Independent 10 November 1989.

East Germany last night decided to throw open its heavily fortified “iron curtain” border, including the Berlin Wall. Soon after the announcement was made at 6.55pm local time, East Germans on foot and in cars had begun arriving in the West.

One couple crossed the Bornholmer Strasse checkpoint into West Berlin at 9.15pm, their identity cards stamped with new-style visas. Later, hundreds more were seen coming by way of the Friedrichstrasse underground station. Unusually, others were allowed to come in through the military-run Checkpoint Charlie.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl, on a state visit to Poland, told West German television that he wanted talks with the new East German leader, Egon Krenz. Asked how many refugees West Germany could absorb, Mr Kohl said: “We shall have to wait and see how many actually come.” He added that it would be in West Germany’s interest for East Germans to “stay at home”.

The demographic implications of the decision to open the border may prove immense. Some 1.3 million East Germans – out of a population of 16.6 million – had already applied to emigrate to the West. With 200,000 having left East Germany this year alone, the army  has been brought in to maintain public transport, food deliveries and hospital services.

In West Germany, an Interior Ministry official promised last night that no one would be turned back from the East. But some West Germans now fear that potential problems of jobs and accommodation could provoke a right-wing political backlash....

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