But 15 years on, a very different kind of mass mobilisation took place. The demonstrations in Leipzig this August highlighted the economic plight of the former East German regions, where unemployment is double that of the western part. When the old regime collapsed, many skilled workers found themselves on the wrong side of supply-and-demand economics.
In Bulgaria the hard-line Communist leadership headed by Todor Zhivkov--who had led his party since 1954--suddenly resigned the day after the wall collapsed, ceding power before the wave of reform could overwhelm their government. In Czechoslovakia popular unrest led to a largely peaceful collapse of Communist rule in the weeks that followed... Only in Romania, where, in Judt's apt phrase, "Communism had degenerated from national Leninism to a sort of neo-Stalinist satrapy," did widespread violence erupt.
Its concrete, barbed wire, and feared killing zones had stood for twenty-eight years, two months, and twenty-seven days. In a single night, crowds took axes and hammers to its base and danced on its once formidable peaks.
In the face of the mounting exodus of its citizens and unprecedented public protests in East German cities (50,000 turned out in Leipzig on October 9, and half million flooded the streets of East Berlin on November 4), on November 9 the Politburo quietly decided to lift all travel restrictions. At the end of a routine daily press briefing at 7 p.m., a Politburo spokesman made a low-key announcement that “private trips abroad can be applied for, and permits will be granted promptly . . . Permanent emigration is henceforth allowed across all border crossing points between East Germany and West Germany and West Berlin.”
Solidarity led the first non-purely Communist government in the Soviet bloc following its victory in June 1989 elections.
Mr. Nemeth, as Hungarian prime minister, opened his country's border with Austria in May 1989, a move that allowed thousands of East Germans to flee to the West and set off the unraveling of the Iron Curtain that had divided Cold War Europe.
President Reagan yesterday challenged the Soviet leader, Mr Mikhail Gorbachev, to prove his commitment to freedoms by tearing down the Berlin Wall. He made his appeal from a podium only 50 yards from the Wall at the Brandenburg Gate.
'Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall,' Mr Reagan said.
At least 136 people were killed trying to get through the Wall that divided Berlin from the day it was built 50 years ago on Aug. 13, 1961, to its fall on Nov. 9, 1989. Most were shot by East German border guards. About 5,000 made it.
Running across cemeteries and along canals, zigzagging through the city streets, the Berlin Wall was a chilling symbol of the Iron Curtain that divided all of Europe between communism and democracy. Berlin was at the heart of the Cold War.
In 1962, the Soviets and East Germans added a second barrier, about 100 yards behind the original wall, creating a tightly policed no man's land between the walls. After the wall went up, more than 260 people died attempting to flee to the West.
Though Kennedy chose not to challenge directly the Soviet Union's building of the Berlin Wall, he reluctantly resumed testing nuclear weapons in early 1962, following the lead of the Soviet Union.
...the Berlin Wall, was first erected on the night of August 12–13, 1961, as the result of a decree passed on August 12 by the East German Volkskammer (“Peoples' Chamber”). The original wall, built of barbed wire and cinder blocks, was subsequently replaced by a series of concrete walls (up to 15 feet [5 metres] high) that were topped with barbed wire and guarded with watchtowers, gun emplacements, and mines.
As late as 15 June 1961, GDR head of state Walter Ulbricht declared that no one had any intention of building a wall. On 12 August 1961, the GDR Council of Ministers announced that “in order to put a stop to the hostile activity of West Germany’s and West Berlin’s revanchist and militaristic forces, border controls of the kind generally found in every sovereign state will be set up at the border of the German Democratic Republic, including the border to the western sectors of Greater Berlin.” What the Council did not say was that this measure was directed primarily against the GDR's own population, which would no longer be permitted to cross the border.