- The Berlin Wall came tumbling down on November 9, 1989, reuniting East and West Germany, and foreshadowing the fall of the Soviet Union.
- It stood for 28 years to separate the two sides of Berlin and the two sides of Germany.
- The night it fell – by accident – people stormed from East to West Berlin, and photos from that night show gleeful reunions and celebrations.
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The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to divide East and West Berlin. Constructed by the eastern, Soviet-ruled portion of the city, the wall was meant to keep Western “fascists” from invading the East – but it also served as a barricade to those Easterners attempting to migrate to the West, capitalist territory.
The barbed-wire-topped wall divided families and took away basic human rights, keeping the population of East Berlin trapped inside Soviet territory. At 12 feet tall and 4 feet wide, the wall and its surrounding security systems were known as “The Death Strip,” as nearly 100 people were killed in their attempt to cross its miles of trenches and trip-wire machine guns.
On November 9, 1989, it was announced by the East German Communist Party that citizens of the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, could cross the border whenever they pleased. That night, mayhem ensued at the border. Many who lived in the East crossed freely to the West for the first time in nearly 30 years, and citizens even began chipping away at the wall.
We’ve compiled Reuters images from that infamous night and the nights that followed as the Berlin Wall finally came crashing down.
East German soldiers act as a barricade, blocking West Berliners waiting to welcome East Berlin citizens at the Allied guardhouse “Checkpoint Charlie” November 9, 1989.
When the clock struck midnight, all the checkpoints along the wall opened.
Berliners carried hammers and chisels to begin chipping away at the wall.
Both East and West German citizens celebrated as they climbed the wall at the Brandenburg Gate.
While in the past those trying to cross the border would resort to digging tunnels, leaping out of buildings that lined the border, or attempting to drive through, on November 9, West German citizens climbed freely atop the Berlin Wall.
East Germans celebrated as they climbed the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate.
West Germans applauded as East Berlin citizens traveled through Checkpoint Charlie on the following day, November 10.
There was plenty of celebration as West Berlin citizens welcomed East Germans as they passed the border checkpoint.
People embraced friends they hadn’t seen in years.
West Berlin citizens continued to stand atop the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate November 10.
Looking out onto a sea of thousands, East Berlin border guards stood atop the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate November 11.
Some East German border policemen didn’t know how to react.
By November 12, it was no longer only small hammers being used to deconstruct the wall. Here, an East German bulldozer and crane knock down the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz.
East Berliners cross and meet West Berliners at Potsdamer Platz after the Berlin Wall was torn down at this checkpoint November 12. Over 2 million people from East Berlin visited West Berlin just that weekend.
Parts of the Berlin Wall were loaded onto trucks at Potsdam Platz by November 14.
Thousands walked along the Berlin Wall between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate November 18.
Even days later, citizens wanted to participate in the destruction. Here, a young West German girl hammers the Berlin Wall November 19.
Another section of the Berlin Wall was dismantled by East Germany near the Brandenburg Gate December 22.
This flag, reading “Unity,” was waved high as these Germans crossed the newly opened border December 22.
Into the following year, 1990, citizens still wanted their own piece of the Berlin Wall. Here, a man hammers away at Checkpoint Charlie June 2, 1990.
Many took souvenirs of the wall, and pieces of its graffitied facade can now be found all over the world.