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east germany opens border

AP covers the fall of the Berlin Wall — part of the continuing series of special reports from the AP Corporate Archives

Red Prompt

east germany opens border

AP covers the fall of the Berlin Wall — part of the continuing series of special reports from the AP Corporate Archives

east germany opens border

Red Prompt
“The Berlin Wall. Brooding, cold and gray, it was an ugly, intimidating structure, symbolizing the East-West divide, not only in Berlin, or Germany, or even Europe, but the world.”

– George Jahn, AP correspondent

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A man hammers away at the Berlin Wall on Nov. 12, 1989 as the border barrier between East and West Germany was torn down after 28 years, symbolically ending the Cold War.

AP Photo / John Gaps III

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August 13, 1961

East German troops, under the direction of hard-line Communist Party leader Erich Honecker, move to seal all access to West Berlin after a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of East Germans threatens to ruin the economy.

In the following days, barbed wire is replaced by concrete barriers. Houses along the border are sealed. Border guards are issued shoot-to-kill orders for all those trying to flee. West Berlin is encircled and isolated from the West.

Map of the Berlin Wall separating West Berlin and East Berlin.

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Berlin Wall at Koepenicker Street, district of Kreuzberg on Friday, March 12, 1971.

AP Photo / Edwin Reichert

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Berlin Wall at Koepenicker Street, district of Kreuzberg on Friday, March 12, 1971.
President John F. Kennedy delivers his speech of solidarity with the citizens of Berlin  in front of the city hall in West Berlin,  June 26, 1963.
President John F. Kennedy delivers his speech of solidarity with the citizens of Berlin  in front of the city hall in West Berlin,  June 26, 1963.

june 26, 1963

President Kennedy visits West Berlin. In a show of solidarity with the divided city he declares to a cheering crowd of 400,000 at the wall, “I bin ein Berliner,” or “I am a jelly doughnut.” Although his intended words were immediately understood, the slip quickly spread and made the speech instantly famous.

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President John F. Kennedy delivers his speech of solidarity with the citizens of Berlin in front of the city hall in West Berlin, June 26, 1963. At far right is the Willy Brandt, mayor of West Berlin.

AP PHOTO

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Standing on a platform overlooking the wall dividing East and West Berlin, President John F. Kennedy, fourth from right, looks toward the Brandenburg Gate as the officer next to him points it out, June 26, 1963.

AP PHOTO

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Standing on a platform overlooking the wall dividing East and West Berlin, President John F. Kennedy, fourth from right, looks toward the Brandenburg Gate as the officer next to him points it out, June 26, 1963.
Standing on a platform overlooking the wall dividing East and West Berlin, President John F. Kennedy, fourth from right, looks toward the Brandenburg Gate as the officer next to him points it out, June 26, 1963.

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For the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (Nov. 9, 1989), the original artists responsible for the murals that are known as the “East Side Gallery” returned to repaint their works. Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, April 22, 2009.

Sipa via AP Images

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For the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (Nov. 9, 1989), the original artists responsible for the murals that are known as the “East Side Gallery” returned to repaint their works. Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, April 22, 2009.
U.S. President Reagan acknowledges the crowd after his speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, where he demanded, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!' June 12, 1987.
U.S. President Reagan acknowledges the crowd after his speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, where he demanded, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!' June 12, 1987.

june 12, 1987

President Reagan visits West Berlin and calls on Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to tear the wall down.

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U.S. President Reagan acknowledges the crowd after his speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, where he demanded, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!' June 12, 1987.

AP PHOTO / Ira Schwartz

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East German State and Party Leader Erich Honecker, Right, applauds Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev for his speech at ceremony marking 40th anniversary of foundation of the GDR in East Berlin on Friday, Oct. 6, 1989.

AP PHOTO / GERALD HERBERT

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East German State and Party Leader Erich Honecker, Right, applauds Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev for his speech at ceremony marking 40th anniversary of foundation of the GDR in East Berlin on Friday, Oct. 6, 1989.
East German State and Party Leader Erich Honecker, Right, applauds Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev for his speech at ceremony marking 40th anniversary of foundation of the GDR in East Berlin on Friday, Oct. 6, 1989.

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In this painting by artist Birgit Kinder, the East German Trabant crashes through the Berlin Wall, April 22, 2009.

Sipa via AP Images

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In this painting by artist Birgit Kinder, the East German Trabant crashes through the Berlin Wall, April 22, 2009.
East German refugees look through the fence of the West German embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Sep. 30, 1989.
East German refugees look through the fence of the West German embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Sep. 30, 1989.

march 8, 1989

The last fatality related to an escape attempt over the Berlin Wall is recorded. An East Berlin man falls to his death after his homemade hot-air balloon deflates prematurely. A total of 80 East Germans have been reported killed trying to flee over the wall since 1961.

Images from Left to Right:

East German refugees look through the fence of the West German embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Sep. 30, 1989.

AP Photo / Diether Endlicher

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A man from East Germany hanging on the fence of the West German embassy in Prague Monday is grabbed by a couple of Czech policemen, while refugees from inside the mission give him support, Oct. 2, 1989.

AP Photo / Diether Endlicher

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East German policemen push demonstrators away during a peaceful sit-in at an intersection in East Berlin, Oct. 8, 1989.

AP Photo / Rainer Klostermeier

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top image:

left image:

East German refugees look through the fence of the West German embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Sep. 30, 1989.

AP Photo / Diether Endlicher

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bottom images:

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A man from East Germany hanging on the fence of the West German embassy in Prague Monday is grabbed by a couple of Czech policemen, while refugees from inside the mission give him support, Oct. 2, 1989.

AP Photo / Diether Endlicher

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bottom-right image:

East German policemen push demonstrators away during a peaceful sit-in at an intersection in East Berlin, Oct. 8, 1989.

AP Photo / Rainer Klostermeier

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A man from East Germany hanging on the fence of the West German embassy in Prague Monday is grabbed by a couple of Czech policemen, while refugees from inside the mission give him support, Oct. 2, 1989.
East German policemen push demonstrators away during a peaceful sit-in at an intersection in East Berlin, Oct. 8, 1989.

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A hand reaches through a gap in the wall, Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014.

Britta Pedersen / picture-alliance / dpa / AP Images

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A hand reaches through a gap in the wall, Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014.

1989

Mass Protests

october 23

About 300,000 people march for democratic reforms in Leipzig.

october 24

Demonstrators in East Berlin take to the streets to demand free elections and to protest Krenz's uncontested candidacy.

october 30

Hundreds of thousands hold rallies in cities around the country.

November 4

About 1 million protesters jam East Berlin in the largest pro-reform rally in the nation's 40-year history.

November 6

More than 750,000 people stage pro-reform rallies across the nation. At least 500,000 protest in Leipzig alone. There are rising calls within the Communist Party for sweeping top-level changes. Government publishes draft of a travel law that would allow 30 days of travel abroad every year.

political developments

october 18

Hard-line Communist Party leader Erich Honecker, who supervised the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, is replaced by Egon Krenz after 18 years in power. Two other members of the ruling Politburo are fired.

october 24

Krenz is installed as head of state and chief of the military.

october 26

Politburo member Guenter Schabowski meets with two leaders of the New Forum in the first contact between the government and the opposition.

october 27

Krenz announces a general amnesty for those convicted of fleeing to the West and appeals to East Germans to return home. He promises a new law will be drafted to allow East Germans greater freedom of travel to the West.

November 1

East German leader Egon Krenz holds talks in Moscow with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and announces East Germany has much to learn from Kremlin-style reforms.

November 3

East German officials announce that East German who want to flee West can do so over the Czechoslovak frontier, spurring a new surge in a 2-month-old exodus. Krenz announces five more hard-line Politburo members will be fired.

November 7

East Germany's 44-member Council of Ministers announces its resignation. The travel law draft is rejected by a key parliamentary committee as too narrow and restrictive. West German officials say more than 33,000 East Germans arrive since the route through Czechoslovakia was opened.

November 9

The Communist leadership declares that citizens can travel directly to West Germany through East German checkpoints with proper documentation. Thousands of East Berliners make their way to the Berlin Wall. Officials waive the requirement for visas and thousands stream over to West Berlin for a night of celebration.

The AP news FLASH announcing that East Germany has begun tearing down the Berlin Wall was sent over the World Wire from Frankfurt to New York at 6:06 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, 1989. NS and KC in parenthesis refer to Berlin correspondent Nesha Starcevic and Berlin news editor Kevin Costelloe.

The AP news FLASH announcing that East Germany has begun tearing down the Berlin Wall was sent over the World Wire from Frankfurt to New York at 6:06 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, 1989. NS and KC in parenthesis refer to Berlin correspondent Nesha Starcevic and Berlin news editor Kevin Costelloe.

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Tourists visit remnants of the Berlin Wall in Berlin, Germany, at the East Side Gallery on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.

Maurizio Gambarini / picture-alliance / dpa / AP Images

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Tourists visit remnants of the Berlin Wall in Berlin, Germany, at the East Side Gallery on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.
Staff from AP's German headquarters in Frankfurt gather in front of the Brandenburg Gate in 1990, weeks after the wall is dismantled.
“With decades of fortified frontiers apparently at an end, the wall that represented the literal division between the East and West may become a mere monument to the Cold War.”

– Nesha Starcevic, AP writer

Staff from AP's German headquarters in Frankfurt gather in front of the Brandenburg Gate in 1990, weeks after the wall is dismantled.

AP PHOTO

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