The Fall of the Wall
 german flag

Thursday, 9. November 1989


The SED Central Committee continues its plenary session. But only 24 hours after their reelection to the Politburo, district memberships again remove first secretaries Hans-Joachim Böhme in Halle, Werner Walde in Cottbus, and Johannes Chemnitzer in Neubrandenburg. Also, Inge Lange, the longtime women's commissioner of the SED Politburo, resigns her post. General confusion reigns. During an afternoon break, the newly-formed Politburo agrees to adopt new regulations for trips to the West by way of a Council of Ministers' resolution, in order to be able to process the continuing stream of emigrants via Czechoslovakia at East Germany's own border crossing points. The modalities will be announced tomorrow.

In the evening, Politburo member Günter Schabowski announces the results of the Central Committee plenary. Towards the end of the press conference, at exactly 6:53 p.m., an Italian journalist asks about the problematic travel law of November 6. At that, Schabowski announces that new regulations on so-called »permanent emigration« have been adopted today. He then reads a press briefing actually intended for tomorrow, explaining that special conditions will no longer be required for applications to the police for private travel. Asked when this will go into force, Schabowski answers, »As far as I know, this is immediate, without delay.«

Shortly thereafter, the AP and DPA wire services report that East Germany has opened its borders, and the report is the lead story in evening news broadcasts. Thousands of East Berliners thereupon stream to border crossings to find out if the unbelievable news is true. But everything is closed; the officers have not yet received any instructions to open them. Tumultuous scenes ensue. Thousands push forward, and the situation at the barriers becomes dangerous. No one knows for sure if it's a rumor, a mistake, or a real decision. The border police themselves can provide no information and are completely out of their depth. Half an hour before midnight, some border commanders decide on their own to simply open the gates. The report to
the top is, »We're flooding.«