Berlin Wall at Bornholmer Strasse
Imagine what it is like to be separated by a brutal wall from your loved ones in West Berlin for decades, and suddenly someone says you can go to the other side of Berlin to see them again. That’s in a nutshell what happened at Bornholmer Strasse at November 9, 1989.
Bosebrucke with the Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall at Bornholmer Strasse was the first border crossing where people were able to go to West Berlin. It sounds so simple now, but in 1989 it was a truly unexpected event for the people of Berlin. 1989 had been an eventful year, with lots of demonstrations in Leipzig and Berlin against the GDR government and people fleeing the GDR with the help of the embassies in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. And although the American president Ronald Reagan had begged the Russian leader Michael Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, nobody thought it would actually happen on November 9, 1989. In 1989 Chris Gueffroy even tried to escape by swimming to West Berlin. He was shot at and died. If he had had an inkling of what was about to happen a few months later, he would have waited for the Berlin Wall to crumble. But nobody had an inkling the Berlin Wall was about to fall in the beginning of 1989. Even on November 8, 1989 nobody knew. But the people crossing the Bosebrucke at Bornholmer Strasse into West Berlin one day later were not dreaming. What had happened in just one day?
Opening up the Berlin Wall at Bornholmer Strasse
To keep it simple: what happened was a dumb mistake. The people who tried to flee East Germany by going to the West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw created such a chaos in those countries, the embassies refused the large amount of people gathering at their gates. The embassies stated the East German government should fix it themselves. And Egon Krenz, the new leader of the GDR had come up with a plan. The people that wanted to leave the GDR for good, were given permission to do so. They could leave East Germany by crossing the border in East Berlin. Those new rules were invented on November 9, 1989 and were only meant for people who had already tried to flee by going to Warsaw and Prague. But Gunter Schabowski, the press officer of the GDR, didn’t know that. He simply read the statement on his paper and said that travelling was allowed. When a reporter asked him when it was allowed, he stammered: ‘As far as I know, from now on. Without delay.” The new regulations were not for everyone, and it was supposed to be possible the next day, but Schabowski didn’t know. The people in the press room couldn’t believe their ears. But Schabowski spoke the magic words: everybody was allowed to cross the Berlin Wall from East Berlin into West Berlin. And that’s exactly what happened after everybody heard, read and saw what Schabowski had told the reporters.
Running into West Berlin at Bornholmer Strasse
The people of East Berlin went crazy and ran for the crossing points. The nervous border guards had no idea how to handle the situation of course. They started calling their superiors, but they had no clue either. Schabowski had said everybody was allowed to travel, so they opened up the border crossings. At Bornholmer Strasse, the first people crossed into West Berlin. They honked their cars, and ran over the Bosebrucke in to Wedding, West Berlin. If you go and see the famous bridge, many years after November 9, 1989, you can still see those utterly happy faces from the people that were crossing the bridge for the first time. The Berlin Wall is still visible here, but it no longer separates the people from East Berlin and West Berlin. The hour the first East Berliners crossed the bridge into West Berlin is marked on the Berlin Wall, and sprayed with graffiti for the ultimate touch of freedom. The former watch tower is gone. You can see the blue blue Berlin sky, and some beautiful cherry blossoms, in a place that brutally separated East and West Berlin, for a long time. But no more.