German Unification and the fall of Berlin Wall

The German unification and the final fall of the Berlin wall began in Hungary 25 years ago when the country’s government brought down the security fences at its Austrian border six months before the Berlin wall were broken. The day was May 2nd 1989.

Corroded and not interested in wasting money in replacing the fences, MiklosNehmet, the Hungarian Prime Minister made the decision to tear down the fences prior to the fall of the Berlin wall. It was the beginning of the end as the Hungarian government was already unhappy with the state of the security installations. Two years before being torn down, a report was alleged to have labelled them as technically, politically and morally archaic.

To make a show of the historic event, a fake fence was made on 27 June 1989 in order to have the press witness the cutting. The original security fences had already been completely removed and the Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn and his Austrian colleague Alois Mock wanted the press to officially witness it.

But Hungary’s dismantling of the Iron Curtain did not go down well with Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania who felt the gap will be used by their citizens to run away to the West.

And they were right. About three and a half months after the iron curtain were taken down;around six hundred East German’s including families with children flee their communist home and crossed over to Austria. Many of them only took what they could carry with them and left the rest of their possessions for a new life and greener pastures in the West. The crossing on that day was unexpected as it was only a selected delegation that was supposed to cross over the Hungarian-Austrian border for a Pan-European Picnic. But the citizens heard about the event and stormed the border to cross over with the delegation, the DW News reports.

The incident could have resulted to a massacre with blood bath. But Arpad Bella, the chief Hungarian border official in Sopron made a crucial decision and asked his men not to shoot at the escapees. To many of Bella’s colleagues, his action was an act of betrayal. But he was later honored for making that decision.

After the initial crossover of about 600 migrants to Austria on August 19, 1989, about 50,000 more people flee the East to the West between August and November 1989. And 82 days after the Pan-European Picnic and the subsequent thousands of Easterners that flee to the West, a historic day was made as the Berlin Wallfell on November 9, 1989 and led to the unification of East and West Germany.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE