Full Citation

  • Title Berlin Wall breaks open
  • Author Clough, Patricia
  • Publication Title The Independent
  • Collection The Independent
  • Date Friday,  Nov. 10, 1989
  • Issue Number 963
  • Page Number [1]
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The Independent
  • Copyright Statement © Independent Print Limited.
Berlin Wall breaks open East Germans start to travel freely as 28-year barrier falls From Patricia Clough in East Berlin EAST GERMANY last night de? cided to throw open its heavily- fortified "iron curtain" border, in? cluding the Berlin Wall. Soon after the announcement was made at 6.55pm local time, East Germans on foot and in cars had begun ar? riving in the West. One couple crossed the Bornholmer Strasse checkpoint into West Berlin at 9.15pm, their identity cards stamped with new- style visas. Later, hundreds more were seen coming by way of the Friedrichstrasse underground sta? tion. Unusually, others were al? lowed to come in through the mili? tary-run Checkpoint Charlie. Many apparently came even with? out visas, although these were technically necessary under the new regulations. Chancellor Helmut Kohl, on a state visit to Poland, told West German television that he wanted talks with the new East German leader, Egon Krenz. "We will be in contact with the East German leadership shortly after my re? turn," he said, "and I would like to meet very soon with Mr Krenz." Asked how many refugees West Germany could absorb, Mr Kohl said: "We shall have to wait and see how many actually come." He added that it would be in West Germany's interest for East Ger? mans to "stay at home". President George Bush said he was elated with the decision, call? ing it "a dramatic happening". The announcement struck West Germany's parliament, the Bun? destag, like a thunderbolt. A de? bate about taxation erupted into ecstatic applause. An impromptu rendition of the third verse of the national anthem ? "unity and law and freedom" ? filled the cham? ber. Many parliamentarians called for the immediate the Berlin Watt, built trr 1961. The mayor of West Berlin, Wal? ter Momper, said: "This is the day that we have been waiting for for so long. The border will no longer keep us apart. It is a day of happi- for Berlin." Eberhard Diepgen, a Christian Democrat, declared "the dawning of a new era. The wall has lost its meaning. It can and must be torn down." But Giinter Schabowski, the East German Politburo media chief who announced the open border, said that the Wall would remain standing, for the time be? ing, for military reasons. It was needed to "ensure peace", pending a change of attitude by Nato to? wards the East. The demographic implications of the decision to open the border may prove immense. Some 1.3 mil? lion East Germans ? out of a population of 16.6 million ? had already applied to emigrate to the West. With 200,000 having left East Germany this year alone, the army has been brought in to main? tain public transport, food deliver? ies and hospital services. In West Germany, an Interior Ministry official promised last night that no one would be turned back from the East. But some West Germans now fear that potential problems of jobs and accommoda? tion could provoke a right-wing po? litical backlash. In Berlin, Mr Schabowski said that the opening of the border was an interim solution, adopted by the outgoing government pending leg? islation by the Volkskammer, or parliament. The Volkskammer is to be reconvened on Monday to debate the upheavals. The East German move has fol? lowed weeks of huge street dem? onstrations and calls for political reform. Though Egon Krenz, the new Communist Party chief and head of state, hinted at forthcom? ing "free" elections on Wednes? day, he dampened hopes yesterday by adding that he was "working on the basis that our elections are al? ready not unfree". Party officials have said that the process of formulating a new elec? toral law still has to take place, and that all sectors of society will be consulted, including the New Fo? rum opposition group. The East German Communist Party may re-examine its policies and constitution more funda? mentally next month. The Central Committee, meeting this week in Berlin, yesterday announced that a party conference would be held on 15-17 December. On Monday, the Volkskammer will elect a new government to re? place, thg one tji^t resigned on Tuesday. It is expected to back the Politburo's proposal of Hans Modrow, the country's most prom? inent liberal, as Prime Minister. Mr Modrow yesterday ad? dressed the Central Committee, strongly criticising its past record and presenting ideas for economic reform. These included decentralisation of the economy and more incen? tives for workers. ? Early today, hundreds of West Berliners stormed Checkpoint Charlie in an effort to force their way through to the East German side. They pushed across the white demarcation line dividing East from West Berlin shouting: "We want in, we want in." East German border guards were finding it diffi? cult to hold them back. Further reports, page 8 Timothy Garton Ash, page 19 ? 1 ? i ... . m m East Berlin from the west side of the Wall, which East Germans may now cross freely Photograph: Keith Dobney