History in the Making

November 9, 2009

Twenty years ago today, the DDR Politburo announced its decision to institute a new set of rules, in which East German citizens could obtain a visa to visit West Germany immediately upon request, and without fulfilling the conditions that had until then been necessary. The language of the announcement was somewhat opaque, but East German citizens understood the implication: they would be allowed to cross the border to West Germany, including West Berlin.

Nowadays if you search youtube for “Fall der Mauer” and related terms, you can see all kinds of well-edited montages about what happened next, invariably with music and voice-over narration explaining the significance of the event.

But I prefer this video, the news report from that evening. This is the opening of the border before it’s “The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the End of Communism.” In this one (w/ English subtitles), you can see the story coming together. The crowd is still in chaos but the narrators understand what’s going on.

Another thing that I particularly liked is that the newcasters always ask people why they are coming over to the West. The most cited reason, as far as I can tell, is a variation on “I heard the announcement on the news and just wanted to see if it was really possible.” Pretty mundane stuff. I guess the point is, history is cool when people aren’t quite aware of what’s happening.


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