Full Citation

  • Title Greatest street party the city has ever seen
  • Author Johnson, Daniel
  • Publication Title The Daily Telegraph
  • Collection The Daily Telegraph
  • Date Saturday,  Nov. 11, 1989
  • Issue Number 41799
  • Page Number 3
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library Telegraph Media Group
  • Copyright Statement © Telegraph Media Group Limited.
Greatest street party the city has ever seen Picture*.: REUTEBS, ASSOCIATED PRESS, EPA ■ An East German uses all his strength to hammer away at the Berlin Wall Joy for two women bn reaching the West at a border crossing point in Berlin f) East German border guards look on as a digger goes to work on the Wall ~*w Two friends from either side of the border meet again at Helmstedt rail station EAST BERLIN By Daniel Johnson "WE'LL TAKE the Wall down, block by block, and sell it to the tourists. It's my birthday today; the best I've ever had," said Nora Van Riesen, 23, yesterday. She was one of the countless East Berliners who joined in the greatest street party Berlin has ever seen. It was the end of a nightmare that had lasted 28 years. It was the night when they let you drive, saunter, even dance through the Berlin Wall. It was the same story all along the German-German border: an epiphany unparallelled in postwar history. Nobody who watched through that night in Berlin will ever forget it. The Wall —the physical and psychological blockage which had formed the mental world of millions of Berliners on both sides — had suddenly become no more than an ugly monument to an even uglier but now no longer omnipotent regime. For the older Berliners who could remember the days before the 1939-45 War, for whole generations who had never known such freedom, it meant more than they could express in words. Even for me, a foreigner who had lived in West Berlin 10 years ago, it was hard not to weep with joy. It took a few hours for the news to circulate. But by midnight. East Berlin was on the move. An hour later a large part of the capital's population was on the streets and they were crossing to the west in their thousands. Meanwhile, huge crowds of West Berliners were assembling to greet their guests and to venture over the border without visas, just for the fun of it. There had been nothing like it since John F Kennedy made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech soon after the Wall was built. It was a bright, cold moonlit night. On the streets, strangers embraced, people helped one another; the surly or frightened looks which Westerners once often received had been banished. A fair number of East Berliners were a little tipsy by this time, and those who could afford it waved bottles of Russian champagne; my companions made do with home-made wine. But the good humour was _ never marred by drunken violence. At the crossing-points, the guards were by now letting them through: reluctantly at first; later with the cheerful resignation of officials for whom the meaning of life had suddenly vanished. The East German government had intended to allow its people to cross with visas issued on the spot. As the night wore on, it became obvious that even this relaxation was not enough. If the government wanted people to come back, it would have to grant totally free access. But once it became clear that the guards were scarcely even checking identity cards, the numbers wanting to cross swelled still further. At the Invalidenstrasse check-point, the street was jammed by 1.30 am. Nobody could cross, and even one ofthe heroes of the hour, Herr Walter Momper, West Berlin's Governing Mayor, found it hard to persuade his ecstatic citizens to stand back and allow the Trabant cars, packed with East Berliners, to chug across the most hated border in the world. By early morning, the East German authorities had announced that unlimited travel without visas would end at 8 am. In practice, however, this was not done at many of the checkpoints. Though West Berliners were obliged to have day-visas again. East Berliners were being given six-month multipleentry visas or were simply waved through. Later yesterday morning, most of the revellers returned, exhausted and a little doubtful about whether it would last. The Volkskammer, the East German parliament, will meet on Monday to pass a more permanent travel law. But for the first time since the system began to break down in September, many East Germans felt they now had something worthwhile to go back for. As the first wave returned, new queues of less spontaneous travellers were massing at the check-points. Frau Barbel Bohley, an East German opposition leader, made another impassioned appeal to her countrymen not to abandon her with the task of democratisation still unfinished. "I am delighted that most of you are coming back," she said. But it was anybody's guess how many of the families who were packing their bags would decide to stay in the West.