The mistake that toppled the Berlin Wall

The mistake that toppled the Berlin Wall

If you know one thing about the fall of the
Berlin Wall, it might be this. REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. Or this. Or maybe… HASSELHOFF: I’ve been looking for freedom! These moments were huge in unifying Berlin
and undermining the physical symbol of a divided Europe during the Cold War. But they don’t top this one. The last few
minutes of an otherwise uneventful press conference on November 9th, 1989: It might not look like it, but this is the
moment the Berlin Wall became obsolete – completely by mistake. After the allied powers defeated Nazi Germany
in World War II, they divided the country into four parts, each controlled by a separate
power. These formed into two new countries in 1949. Democratic West Germany and Soviet-controlled
communist East Germany, officially named the German Democratic Republic, or GDR. Through the 1950s, West Germany prospered
as a free society and industrious member of Europe, and hundreds of thousands of East
Germans began emigrating west, in search of new opportunities. To stem the tide, the GDR erected a barrier
along the Inner German Border. Separating the two countries with barbed wire,
guarded checkpoints, and, in many places, defensive measures like land mines. But there was a loophole – in Berlin. And it goes back to when the 4 allied powers
controlled Germany. See, even though the German capital was well
inside the Soviet zone, the allies divided control of it equally to match the rest of
the country. And when East and West Germany formed, so
did East and West Berlin. Even as the Inner German Border fortified,
Berlin had no physical barrier dividing it. East Germans could simply walk or take public
transportation to the Western part of the city and travel freely from there. ARCHIVE: The island of West Berlin had become
the staging point for the free road to the West. This “brain drain” took a huge toll on
East Germany’s labor force. By 1961, more than 3.5 million East Germans,
approximately 20% of the population, had fled to the West – the majority of which were
young and well-educated. But the Berlin loophole closed on Aug 13th,
1961, when the city woke up to East German soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder along
the invisible line dividing East and West Berlin. Unannounced, they began unrolling kilometers
of barbed wire through the middle of the city. They were building the Berlin Wall. ARCHIVE: Brick by brick, until no contact
but a friendly wave. Travel out of East Berlin became strictly
regulated. No one could leave unless they met strict
requirements. And those who didn’t faced a nearly impassable
barrier, complete with floodlights and guard towers. Where armed border guards patrolled day and
night, with orders to shoot and kill anyone trying to cross illegally. And that’s how it remained for 28 years. But change came in late 1989. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had introduced
social reforms meant to relax oppressive practices and open up discourse between people and government. These changes sparked massive peaceful uprisings
throughout Eastern Bloc countries, including East Germany. BAUMBACH: Things had kind of heated up all
summer. In 1989, Catherine Baumbach was a young translator
working for the East German news agency. BAUMBACH: And there were the famous Monday
demonstrations in Leipzig, actually my college town. Initially thousands, then tens of thousands,
then hundreds of thousands. Freedom of expression and freedom to travel
were key demands. And pressure on the GDR to loosen travel restrictions
only grew as neighboring countries, particularly Hungary and Czechoslovakia, relaxed their
border laws, prompting a mass southward exodus of East Germans. By early November 1989, more than 40,000 East
German refugees had arrived at the West German embassy in Prague, hoping to travel to the
West. The GDR was facing a crisis. BAUMBACH: There were forces in the government
that realized something had to be done. This was not sustainable. So lifting the travel
ban was one way that they thought they could quell the protests and make people happy. On November 8th, 1989, GDR official Gerhard
Lauter was tasked with drafting looser travel regulations, meant to be a temporary pressure
release. The new rules were finalized less than a day
later, and read: “Private trips abroad can be applied for
without conditions. Permits are issued on short notice.” “Without conditions.” That’s the key
phrase here. This meant the strict application requirements
were eliminated, and anyone who wanted could leave East Germany and come back. That afternoon, the updated regulations were
handed to government spokesman Günter Schabowski, just as he was about to begin a routine press
conference. BAUMBACH: And as we all know, something kind
of didn’t go quite right there. He had no time to review them before sitting
in front of cameras. And as you can see from his handwritten “roadmap”
of the press conference, he scribbled in a reminder to announce them at the very end. And on live TV at 6:53 PM on November 9th,
he read the relaxed travel laws, for the first time, out loud. BAUMBACH: It seemed totally unreal. But it
was Schabowski saying it and it was broadcast on official television so it had to be true.
There were people around me, older colleagues, who immediately said, “this is the beginning
of the end.” Watch a confused Schabowski shuffle his papers
when a journalist asks a simple follow-up question. The thing is, if Schabowski had had time to
read the new rules, he might have seen this on the final page: The new regulations were meant to go into
effect the following day, in an orderly manner, when the passport offices were open. What happened next can only be described as
a chain reaction. By 7:05 PM, the AP wire had already gone out:
GDR opens borders. And both East and West German nightly news
reports announced the stunning policy reversal. East Berliners began gathering at the wall,
and security officers tried to let them through slowly. But the final nail in the coffin came at 10:42
pm, when this broadcast triggered a mass rush: They actually weren’t yet. But by this point,
there was no going back. Tens of thousands of Berliners stormed the
Wall, saying they heard on the news that they could cross. The outnumbered East German border guards
were completely overwhelmed. BAUMBACH: Somehow they hadn’t gotten the
message, or they didn’t know what to do, or they were afraid, who knows. But they basically
opened the border and thousands of people streamed into West Berlin. Over its 28-year history, at least 140 people
died trying to cross the Berlin Wall. BAUMBACH: November 9th, plus unification a
year later, was the most decisive event in my life. I basically went from one political
system to another, and changes happened very quickly. And it happened unintentionally. The result of a rushed plan and a botched
announcement, delivered in a small room at the end of a boring press conference.

Comments (100)

  1. I wasnt born when it happend, but my mother was. She worked very close to the border and on november 10. the streets were filled with gdrtypical cars like the trabbi. She said it smelled horrible, but it also was one of the most moving experiences in her life.

  2. It is probably going to be easier and less work required if the great wall rubles just get dumped in the yellow sea since less energy and effort is required for this major land transformation.

  3. Gorbachev gave the order to the guards not to use force

  4. Look at Germany now, a super power, full time job is only 24 hours/week. Germans are the happiest people on earth

  5. The reporter who asked to Schabowski that crucial question is Riccardo Ehrman,an Italian reporter who was working in Berlin at the time , he's now 90 years old; I've just seen a documentary about the Fall of Berlin's wall a few moments ago and I've thought it might be an interesting thing to share 🙂

  6. Just go round the wall

  7. Great episode or segment or whatever.

  8. A Reisepass is just a passport

  9. To Berlin liberation ………..

  10. I got sent two chunks of Berlin Wall in the mail from friends in the 90s. One is a chunk with faint spraypaint on it, the other is just concrete, but the aggregate size and color between are very distinct to most other concrete I've ever seen.
    A day when humanity triumphed.

  11. Just note that the confrontation with the border patrols could have easily turned into a slaughter due to them not knowing of the new situation. It still amazes me today how the fall of the berlin wall was a peaceful act that united a divided nation. Gives you hope for other divided countries like Korea.

  12. Will the Mexico wall be tear down too?

  13. Why video is sometimes lagging from the middle? It's defo not my device & program. Bandicam says it's 24fps, but actually it's like 14fps.

    Since 03:40 especially.

  14. they should make this mistake at korea too..

  15. The Berlin Wall even if destroyed had its effects ingrained into East and West, and it does not seem to change.

  16. This is the equivalent of:


  17. "Massive peaceful demonstrations."
    Romania: Well yes, but actually no.

  18. The first mistake was to set up the wall in the first place.

  19. History began on December 26, 1991…

    everything before and after that was a mistake

  20. Wasn't a mistake, the fall was due sooner or later, the press conference was chosen to let it be a small announcement and avoid a massive impact. If there was a mistake, then it was the misjudgement of the people's reaction. I myself, after attending protests after protests as a young teenager by then, jumped on a train on the night from 10th to 11th going to Munich, basically just to see whether that city really exist

  21. All it takes to affect change is a large group of people coming together towards a common goal.

  22. So messy, so human. Lovely.

  23. A mistake can be revolutionary.

  24. For this "mistake" to happen is a blessing. It's sad to know the wall has been up for
    so long…

    Always trying to divide one another :/

  25. Sometimes mistakes can beget positive outcomes.

  26. Someone tell me what David Hasselhoff is doing

  27. why communism / socialism is evil

  28. Love the vox, very knowledgeable journalists who break down the details that are easy to understand

  29. And now 30 years later….Trump Is following orders from Putin. The Eastern Bloc is now here in America

  30. The actual end of WWII

  31. Minor quibble, it was the DDR, the Deutschland Democratic Republic.
    Only non-Germans call it Germany.

  32. The walls now have moved east and south.

  33. i was doing an nhd project about this but we had to pay to continue the project

  34. Oh Snap she got snag 7:29

  35. The reason I come to Youtube frequently is to watch these kinds of videos, especially by VOX. ♥Vox

  36. No matter how you politicize this, you can't deny the utter happiness of the East Berliners going into West Berlin. It's amazing.

  37. Love Vox. Always interesting video and so much to learn from.

  38. One of the worst video by Vox.

  39. These are the videos that vice excels at. Wish there would be more of these.

  40. How quickly you need to click on like, immediately , without delay

  41. That’s kinda cool I liked this video

  42. After it Fall, the upper class and corporation already win. The worker class loose. Is it bad thing or good ?

  43. A mistake that turn out to be a blessing

  44. …but the border was going to open the very next day. This video exaggerates a trivial inconsequential mistake.

  45. Somebody definitely definitely got fired.

  46. Did you guys already upload this or is it similar to someone else's YouTube video?

  47. What happened to the guy that made the mistake?? We all know that Russian government is not the most forgiving ppl??

  48. Why doesn’t vox stick to content like this.

  49. COmmunism is the very definition of failure.

  50. Felt pity for that woman who smashed her face in the barbed wire

  51. 7:30 poor women bashed her face into barbed wire eek

  52. "Botched", "by mistake", are you guys serious? The only difference is like… 12 hours. And do you think the following morning the border guards would get the extra manpower to handle hundreds of thousands of people?
    Talk about sensationalizing.

  53. The wall would have probably been toppled regardless.

  54. i just remember film goodbye lenin 😂😂

  55. Fascinating. Thank you.

  56. You have to be pretty LOW to shoot your own people. Shame on them!

  57. From 'tear down this wall' to 'build the wall.' What a twist.

  58. Beware of mistakes at the end of boring press conferences!

  59. There is nothing more permanent than a temperary solution

  60. This is make me so happy

  61. That's the type of mistake I want to make.

  62. Events that no one hv learned from history class, small details with big effects. A collision of small movements creating one big major ev event in history. Dope👌

  63. wait why this sounds familiar? oh Oversimplified

  64. When your debate tournament goes so badly

  65. this is how many ppl gatta go to area 51

  66. So…

    Excited much?

  67. Wow! It did happen.

  68. If they hadn't botched the announcement, would the same events have happened, except a day later?

  69. A good kind of mistake.

  70. Make a video on Ayodhya case of India. The verdict of court on Ayodhya case is today. Kindly do the needful.
    Your subscriber

  71. Seeing all the happy Berliners made me tear up a bit,not gonna lie

  72. the great mistake for good

  73. That tapping sound is so annoying

  74. WOW Excelente recopilacion de informacion..!! muchas gracias por la explicacion… Antes de ver este video, lei un poco en wikipedia para poder entender lo ocurrido, sin embargo este video me dejo sin ninguna duda.. Saludos y muy buen trabajo informativo …

  75. Lip Gallagher 6:10

  76. A lot of factual inaccuracies here:
    1. The West German government formed in a breach of the Potsdam Agreement, which called for prompt reunification.
    2. The GDR offered more than 100 plans for reunification between 1949-1961.
    Most importantly…
    3. NATO had planned a full-scale invasion of East German (GDR), and if you google Operation DECO II, you will find a buried historical document that lays out a detailed plan to use NATO military to declare a civil war in Germany.

    Western narratives of the Berlin Wall may infer otherwise, but the truth is the GDR did have a right to defend itself from a serious military threat.

  77. Why they ride it was a I backfired whole time they wouldn't care leader doesn't even know.

  78. Fruggin freegan froggin

  79. What a happy little accident

  80. So it was a "raid the border wall, the news said so, they can't stop us all"

  81. Remember when America was against walls, and in favor of open borders? I wish more people did.

  82. One mistake and the soviet union collapsed

  83. 7:30 Looks Extremely Painful

  84. Best mistake he ever committed.

  85. This was told to me by tour guide in Berlin last month and it blew my mind.

  86. There are no accidents … Master Oogway.

  87. Twenty five yrs later,we will recall "Mistake that broke trump's wall".

  88. By mistake, when that particular couple mate that gives the result after 9 month who was Hitler

  89. Americans 1989: Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down That Wall!
    Americans today: Mr. Gorbachev, Build That Wall!

  90. The reporter should be awarded Pulitzer prize for the action asking "when does it take effect"

  91. – Sir, when will the DMZ go down?
    – Immediatly, with no delay

  92. This revolution will be preponed.

  93. Is this day widely celebrated in Germany? I mean, as a public holiday.

  94. God bless and keep Mikhail Gorbachev. I see him as the Bernie Sanders of Russia. I hope our Bernie can return the favor. партнерство (partnership) should be our goal. No communism, no capitalism. People supporting other people. A conglomerate of competitive collectives coordinated to advance everyone. We need competition, but we need each other; согласованность (coherence), a feeling of trust and sportsmanship. This could unite and drive us as a whole. Not just a race, not just a nation, not just a continent, but a planet on the move. We can do anything if we move for everyone.

  95. India Pakistan also opened the kartarpur corridor after 72 years make a video to that too.. Request

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