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Sunday, May 30, 2010


Within half an hour the border situation was all but out of control. The pressure-release solution had backfired spectacularly. At the Bornholmer Strasse, the huge crowds waiting behind a screen fence to go through the exit process were starting to push forward, and to threaten the handful of border guards trying to keep them in order. At around 11.30, a group of East Berliners pushed aside the screen fence in front of the border crossing and everyone swarmed into the checkpoint area en masse. Checkpoint commander Lieutenant-Colonel Harald Jager decided that he was not prepared to risk the lives of himself and his soldiers. He ordered his men to stop checking passports, open up fully, and just let the crowd do what it wanted.

And the crowd knew what it wanted. Within moments, thousands began to pour through the checkpoint. They simply walked or, in most cases ran, into West Berlin. The sensation of running freely over the bridge, of crossing a border where such an action, just days or even hours before, would have courted near-certain death, brought a surge of exhileration that, if we are to believe those who were there, all but changed the chemical composition of the air and turned it into champagne.

Large crowds had already gathered on the Western side. They greeted the Easterners with cries of joy and open arms. Many improvised toasts were drunk. By midnight, all the border checkpoints had been forced to open At the Invalidenstrasse, masses invaded from the West and met the approaching Easterners in the middle.

The above paragraphs are from a book that I'm just finishing up. The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor, pages 427-428. This scene is from the night of 9 November 1989 when the Berlin Wall was finally breached. I remember that very night precisely. Having been to Berlin myself, and having actually stayed in a hotel on the former East side, this story brings back powerful memories. Especially because this is Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S. I thought it was a perfect story of freedom to commemorate Memorial Day. Have you felt some of those same feelings expressed in the paragraphs above? Have you ever felt such freedom before?


Ur-spo said...

I have experienced a few of these types of emotional states. It is always a liberating experience. Mine have been of the psychological types.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing time that was. I remember it well.

Lemuel said...

As a teenager I "watched" the Wall go up.
As with you I too was in East Berlin on two different days of my stay in West Berlin in 1971, although I did not stay overnight there. I knew what it meant to cross that border.
When that night in November 1989 happened, it was an unbelievable dream!
Would that all the peoples of the world could rise and tell their leaders that the people no longer recognize nor respect any border or barrier (physical or emotional) between peoples!!

Java said...

Powerful stuff. No, don't think I've ever felt that rush of freedom, mainly because I've never been so repressed. And I thank the gods for that.

Stephen said...

When I became 100% totally out of the closet, Seattle 1980, I felt actually free & lighter than air.