Full Citation

  • Title The Iron Curtain is swept aside East Germany throws open all its borders
  • Author Johnson, Daniel Freeman, Clive Brodie, Ian
  • Publication Title The Daily Telegraph
  • Collection The Daily Telegraph
  • Date Friday,  Nov. 10, 1989
  • Issue Number 41798
  • Page Number [1]
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library Telegraph Media Group
  • Copyright Statement © Telegraph Media Group Limited.
The Iron Curtain is swept aside East Germany throws open all its borders Krenz gambles on free travel policy to stop the exodus By Daniel Johnson in East Berlin IN THE MOST dramatic breach yet of the Iron Curtain which has divided Europe since the Second World War, East Gennany last night announced that it is throwing open all its border points and will lift virtually all restrictions on its citizens' freedom to travel. The Berlin Wall, which has been the ultimate symbol ofthe division of Germany since 1961, thus becomes little more than a museum piece. It will remain standing for the present as a symbol of the division of Germany. Its demolition will be used by the Eastern Bloc as a bargaining counter in disarmament talks with Nato. The raising of the Iron Curtain from Stettin to Trieste, which Winston Churchill denounced at Fulton, Missouri, in 1946, is now almost complete. With the borders of Germany, Hungary and Yugoslavia open, only Czechoslovakia maintains restrictions on a limited scale. Last night West Germany said it was prepared to take everyone who floods across the border. "Noone will be turned back," said an Interior Ministry oflicial in Bonn. On hearing the news, MPs in Bonn's parliament launched into a rousing and emotional rendition of the national anthem. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who said he might have to curtail his official visit to Poland, called for face-to-face talks on East Germany's political crisis with Herr Egon Krenz, the Communist State's leader. In opening his borders, Herr Krenz is gambling on regaining his people's confidence. If the gamble fails, the scaie of the exodus could sweep away Krenz and his Communist leadership. Opinion on both sides of the Wall was divided on whether the decision was the last desperate throw of the dice by a bankrupt regime or a shrewd tactical ploy to stabilise a situation fast spiralling out of control. More than 225,000 East Germans have left for West Germany this year, via Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland and the end of the First World War Western observers estimate the total wanting to leave is nearly 1-4 million out of the country's 16 million population The travel concession was announced at a dramatic press conference in East Berlin by Herr Guenter Schabowski, party spokesman, two days before tbe 71st anniversary of The newly-elected Politburo s extraordinary decision ended 28 J»™ "^eds rf^'refuge^s haw iJln wfled nr 2 ^L ^"mS toer^Ae while attempting to cross the Berlin Wall or the border between the two Germanies. Under the provisional ordinance, all citizens would be able to use any border crossing point, including those at the ^ Berlin Wall, without providing any proof of family connections, financiai resources or any of the other prerequisites which have previously hindered free travel and emigration. HerrSchabowski's announcement came at the end of the second day of the crisis meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Socialist Unity party. But the debate over a new electoral law, allowing free elections and ushering in a "plural!?' sodrtv". was overshadowed by the opening of East Germany s borders for the first time in 40 years. The decision is certain to provoke a political storm in West Germany, as major cities like Bremen and Hanover refuse to accept any more refugees. Herr Schabowski claimed last night that West Germany's capacity to absorb a further influx of refugees was exhausted and opposition leaders in,.Eas.t Gera|3n15' a,reniw apffa mg t0 would-be im'^s not to leave. But last night Herr Manfred Rommel, President of the Conference of German city Councils and the Mayor of Stuttgart, estimated that up to two million East Germans may cross over. Wes, Germ was facing a "national emergency" and must take emergency measures, he said. Those should include commandeering all empty flats in all towns and cities to accommodate the refugee influx. Four young East Germans crossed into West Germany at a northern crossing point on the .border, the first since East Germany opened its frontier. Curious East Germans flocked to crossing points at the Rerijn Wall and passed through simply by showing their identity cards, said West German television. "There was no problem," said one West Berliner who saw East Berliners coming over. One TV scene showed East Berliners in tears as ey,^ cr0ssed, just to see if it was possible, before returning to the East. 0ne of the ear]jest crossings was made at Helmstedt, 100 miles east of Hanover, by a Continued on Back Page jmuHeafritj V'i_ Berlin's w,all in concrete and block, the symbol of an ideological divide, as it looked In its early years (Other pictures—PUartd Back Page) E Germany Continued from Pl woman dentist from Magdeburg. She said she simply wanted to see if it was possible to travel lo the West. She promptly turned around and headed back to East Germany. A West Berliner hugged and danced with an East Berlin couple who crossed the white line which divides the city. But there were no reports of masses of refugees pouring into the West across the 10 border and seven rail crossings. The end of travel restrictions was the most dramatic event so far in a week which has already seen the fall ofthe East German government, the resignation and replacement of the entire Politburo and promises of reforms which theoretically could threaten the leading role ofthe Communist party. The redundancy of the Berlin Wall and the "normalisation" of the German frontier may lead to more calls for reunification, but the East German leadership evidently believes neither the West nor the Soviet Union is ready yet to contemplate such a transformation ofthe European political scene. • Clive Freeman in West Berlin writes: West Berlin's governing mayor, Walter Momper appealed on television to West Berliners not to grumble if lots of people started coming through the city barrier "even if they want to stay and, ofcourse, some of them will. Be tolerant." • Russia hinted yesterday that it would accept a non-Communist government in East Germany if it remained in the Warsaw Pact. Mr Gennady Gerasimov, Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in Moscow that German reunification would only be a realistic topic for discussion if Nato and the Warsaw Pact were dissolved. • Ian Brodie in Washington writes: President Bush said he was elated by the East German news, calling it "a dramatic happening". Admitting that he had been taken by surprise at the announcement. President Bush added that the Berlin Wall now had "very little relevance. I am very pleased." As part of President Bush's offer to help Bonn cope with refugees, the Pentagon said American armed forces in West Germany will provide temporary emergency housing for about 980. Two stand-by hospitals in Zweibrucken and Donaueschingen, plus flats in Bitburg, will be made available. Continued on Back Page Continued from Pl West Germans fall out—P14 To the West and freedom: Smiling East Berliners crowd through a gate to the West last night and (right) in August 1961 Conrad Schumann, an East German border guard, leaps over Berlin's barbed wire barricades