Marking the day, 25 years ago on Sunday, that East and West Germans were united.
Jon Premosch and
BuzzFeed News Reporter
Last updated on November 6, 2014, at 12:47 p.m. ET
Posted on November 6, 2014, at 12:47 p.m. ET
In 1945, the winners of World War II divided up the defeated Germany among themselves, also splitting the capital, Berlin. In 1961, the communist leadership in East Germany began raising what would become known as the Berlin Wall. For the next 28 years, the wall would stand as a symbol of the divide between two political and economic systems.
Months of protests against Communist rule — including this one, where 70,000 people walked through the city center of the town of Leipzig in Oct. 1989 — eventually led to the head of the East German Communist Party announcing that beginning at midnight, on Nov. 9, civilians would be able to cross the border.
After some behind-the-scenes politicking, Guenter Schabowski, spokesman for the East Germany Politburo, announced the decision when he improvised comments during a press conference, sayng that the changes in travel regulations were "effective immediately." That set off a rush of East Germans towards the border.
People gathered at the wall, tearing down barbed wire.
Checkpoint Charlie became the gathering point for thousands as midnight approached and the border opened.
These were the sorts of scenes as people crossed into the West, in the immediate aftermath of the opening of the wall at Checkpoint Charlie.
On the other side of Checkpoint Charlie, West Berliners gathered to welcome their Eastern counterparts.
Though its crossing would remain closed for another several weeks, the Brandenburg Gate, blocked off for years due to the wall's presence, became another gathering point for celebrating Germans.
Soldiers stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
East and West German citizens celebrated as they climbed the wall.
The eventual millions that would cross from East to West still faced attempts from the East German government to dissuade them. Here East German policemen spray demonstrating Berliners with water on Nov. 11.
They went anyway. These East Berlin residents waited to cross into the West at the new border crossing on Bernauer Strasse.
Almost miraculously, despite decades of being told the West is the enemy, no East German soldier or policeman fired a single bullet.
Almost immediately, Berliners began hammering away at the symbol of their lengthy division, in this case taking a hammer and chisel to a section of the Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
West Berliners gathered to watch those trying to demolish a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point near Potsdamer Square.
Within days, the East German government had joined in. Here East German soldiers open a new crossing point.
Here, two West German policemen prevent people from approaching as East German policemen stand on and near a fallen portion of the Berlin Wall.
Though full reunification was still years away, the contact between the two sides was instant and deeper than it had been in decades. A West Berliner here prepares to hand over a West German flag to East German policemen near the Brandenburg Gate.
West Germans, like these, and East Germans alike took the opportunity to finally climb the wall that had for so long divided them.
An impromptu concert began to play as crowds gathered on top of the wall on Nov. 10.
This picture shows crowds on top of the Berlin Wall the morning after the opening of the border.
After decades apart, West Germans waited for their families as East Germans crossed the border into the West.
The press gathered to watch history being made as East Germans crossed the border into the West.
Three days later, the emotional impact of being able to cross the border for the first time in years was still raw.
In the following months, parts of the wall would continue to be chipped away: here one of the Mauerspechte (wall woodpeckers) knocks out some stone.
The fall of the wall was the start of the true push for reunification of the country, as demonstrated by this group of Berlin citizens holding a German flag and a poster reading Deutschland Einig Vaterland ("Germany United Fatherland").
The wall didn't fall in a day. On Dec. 31, a little girl chiseled away at the Berlin Wall from the east side.
Finally, the wall did completely fall. And now, 25 years later, all that remains is the memory.
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Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Hayes Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.