Free Walking Tour Berlin

When: Every day 10am & 12pm every day
Where: The meeting point is in front of the ehemaliges Kaiserliches Postfuhramt Berlin, Oranienburger Straße, 10117 Berlin, Germany, next to the entrance.
Price: Free

Breaking Down the Fall of the Berlin Wall: A Moment in History

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Original Berlin

One of the most iconic symbols of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, stood tall for nearly three decades, separating East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989. The fall of this infamous barrier is a significant event in world history, marking the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter. So, when did the Berlin Wall finally come down? Let’s explore the fascinating details surrounding this historic moment.

The Construction of the Berlin Wall

In the aftermath of World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones, each controlled by a different Allied power: the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and the United Kingdom. However, tensions between the US and the Soviet Union began to rise, culminating in the formation of two separate German states in 1949: the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

As East Germany struggled with economic and political challenges, many of its citizens sought better opportunities in the prosperous West Germany. This mass migration led to a population drain, prompting East German authorities to take drastic measures to retain their workforce and prevent the loss of valuable human capital.

On August 13, 1961, the East German government, with the support of the Soviet Union, initiated the construction of a barrier that would separate East and West Berlin. Overnight, barbed wire fences were erected, and soon, a more substantial wall made of reinforced concrete began to take shape.

The Purpose and Features of the Berlin Wall

The primary objective of the Berlin Wall was to prevent East Germans from fleeing to West Germany. The wall featured various elements that made escape extremely difficult:

1. Berlin Wall’s Height and Structure

Stretching over 155 kilometers (96 miles) and standing at around 3.6 meters (12 feet) tall, the Berlin Wall was a formidable barrier. It included multiple layers of walls, watchtowers, and no-man’s lands to deter escape attempts.

2. Border Guards, Watchtowers, and Death Strips

East German border guards patrolled the wall, utilizing watchtowers and other surveillance equipment. The “death strip,” a heavily fortified area between the inner and outer walls, was equipped with booby traps, anti-vehicle trenches, and automatic shooting devices, creating an even more perilous barrier.

3. Checkpoints and Border Crossings

Despite the strict controls, a few designated checkpoints offered limited opportunities for crossing the border legally. Notable checkpoints included Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate, both becoming iconic symbols of the Cold War.

The Series of Events Leading to the Fall

While the Berlin Wall seemed impenetrable, numerous factors slowly chipped away at its strength and ultimately led to its historic fall. Let’s explore the crucial events that marked this significant turning point in history:

1. Reformist Wave in the Soviet Union

In the mid-1980s, a wave of reforms initiated by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, known as glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), began to thaw the strained relations between East and West. Gorbachev’s policies brought about newfound hope and raised expectations across Europe, including East Germany.

2. Mass Protests and Civil Resistance

As the winds of change swept across the Eastern Bloc, East Germans grew increasingly frustrated with their repressive regime. Mass protests demanding more freedoms and improved living conditions became a common sight throughout East Germany. Civil resistance began to erode the legitimacy of the government, with citizens pushing for change and reunification.

3. The Opening of Hungary’s Border

In September 1989, Hungary made a momentous decision to open its border with Austria. This move effectively dismantled an essential part of the Iron Curtain, creating a safe passage for East Germans to flee to the West using Hungary as a transit route. The opening of this “escape hatch” set off a chain reaction that would accelerate the fall of the Berlin Wall.

4. Mass Demonstrations and Political Transition

Building upon the momentum, East Germans took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands, demanding democratic reforms and an end to the division. The peaceful mass demonstrations spread like wildfire, with Leipzig becoming a pivotal city in this movement. The political pressure mounted, resulting in the resignation of Erich Honecker, the long-time leader of East Germany.

5. The Surprising Announcement

On the evening of November 9, 1989, an unexpected announcement by the East German government took the world by surprise. Günter Schabowski, a member of the ruling Politburo, stated in a press conference that the restrictions on foreign travel would be lifted immediately.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

As the news spread, East Germans flocked to the border crossings, eager to cross over to the West. Overwhelmed border guards, who were unclear on the details of the new policy, ultimately yielded to the masses and opened the checkpoints. Emotional scenes of East and West Germans embracing each other marked the end of an era and the birth of a unified Germany.

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the process of reunification accelerated, leading to the official reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990. The wall, once a symbol of division and oppression, became a piece of history, a reminder of the resilience and determination of those who fought for freedom.


The fall of the Berlin Wall stands as a testament to the power of human perseverance and the inevitability of change. This momentous event not only marked the end of a divided Germany but also played a crucial role in shaping the geopolitical landscape of the world. The fall of the Berlin Wall serves as a reminder that barriers, both physical and ideological, can be overcome, paving the way for a brighter and more connected future.

Thank you for reading. If you're inspired by the stories of Berlin and want to delve deeper, why not join us on our Free Berlin Walking Tour? It's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the city's rich history and vibrant culture. We look forward to welcoming you soon.


  • 3.5 hours walking tour
  • Berlin’s major highlights
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Reichstag and Berlin Wall
  • Historical sites

Free Walking Tour Berlin

When: Every day 10am & 12pm every day
Where: The meeting point is in front of the ehemaliges Kaiserliches Postfuhramt Berlin, Oranienburger Straße, 10117 Berlin, Germany, next to the entrance.
Price: Free