Hostilities between old and new Europe linger three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall

But now, new reasons for hope: Donald Trump’s protectionism is forcing central and east European nations to forge better relationships with their near neighbours

East German border guards demolish a section of the wall to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin on 11 November 1989
East German border guards demolish a section of the wall to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin on 11 November 1989

Even 30 years on, there are still mysteries about exactly how the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989. Was it a response to a slip of the tongue by a beleaguered East German spokesperson, or the result of an official decision taken by a panicked leadership before due preparations had been made? Did sheer force of numbers then force the breach, or was rather the spirit of the time?

It was not, it should be stressed, the first breach of the Iron Curtain that divided Europe. That came on 19 August, when Hungarian border guards took a split-second decision to watch, rather than shoot, when pan-European picnickers at the country’s eastern border cut the border fence.

Nor was the whole Iron Curtain asunder when the wall fell. There were still upheavals to come: the removal of Todor Zhivkov in Bulgaria, the Velvet Revolution in what was then Czechoslovakia, the violent overthrow and execution of the Ceausescus in Romania – and, two years later, the dissolution of an enervated Soviet Union.

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