The mistake that toppled the Berlin Wall

One of the Cold War’s biggest moments began at a routine press conference.

The fall of the Berlin Wall has a lot of memorable moments: US President Ronald Reagan’s declaration to “tear down this wall”; David Hasselhoff singing at the Brandenburg Gate; and Berliners wielding pickaxes and hammers, tearing apart the visible symbol of a divided Europe.

 Owen Franken/Corbis/Getty Images
Revelers on the Berlin Wall, November 1989.

But a less spectacular moment actually triggered the crumbling of the wall. It happened at a routine press conference on November 9, 1989, when East German spokesperson Günter Schabowski was handed an announcement about relaxed travel regulations.

In his lack of preparation, he mistakenly insinuated that the checkpoints in the Berlin Wall — which up until then were guarded by soldiers with orders to shoot anyone trying to cross — were now open. They weren’t, but that announcement was all East Berliners needed to storm the wall and demand they be allowed to cross into West Berlin. After that, the wall became obsolete, and soon fell.

Watch the video above to learn more about it all went down. You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *