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October 31st, 2009 10:36 am
How the Berlin Wall Was Actually Opened

There is a fascinating story in today’s Washington Post describing the events that led up to the opening of the Berlin Wall. Although there were many well-documented causes, particular events and their sequence of occurrence had much to do with making November 9, 1989, the day the most visible barrier to human freedom fell. An excerpt:

Even the exact hour mattered: The wall opened when many East German political and military leaders were sequestered in meetings, and many significant Soviet leaders — because of the time difference — were already asleep. What if they’d had time to fortify the borders before the flood of people arrived? As it was, none of them could mount an immediate response, and soon it was too late to undo the events of the evening.

We like to think that all great events have great causes, and obviously long-term political, economic and military forces shaped the Cold War — and how it ended. But momentous events are also a sort of ambush of history, when all those long-term pressures come together in an unexpected way. The opening of the Berlin Wall, largely unintentional, was such an event, an unsettling thought for those who see history as the result of strategy and planning by pivotal leaders.

If only a few things had been different, we might not have such happy memories to celebrate next week. But thanks to the mumbling of a sleep-deprived East German official, some overzealous Western reporting and the willingness of East Germans to risk a trip to the wall, the Cold War reached a swift and peaceful conclusion.”

Read the entire article here.

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