Twenty Thousand People

Author: Gus Meyers

What is it about Germany and the 9th of November? Many landmark events in recent German history have occurred during the month of November: the end of the first war and abdication of the monarch with a transition to democracy (9 Nov 1918), the failed Beer Hall Putsch (9 Nov 1923), Kristallnacht (9/10 Nov 1938) and fall of the Berlin Wall (9 Nov 1989).

As I was preparing for our upcoming trip to Berlin and listening to David Bowie’s new song “Where are we now?”,  a reference was made to the 20,000 people wanting to cross the Bösebrücke.  My curiosity fired up; I began to research this event. (David Bowie had moved to West Berlin during the mid 70’s and joined other names in the music scene such as; Iggy Pop, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. Bowie produced three albums during that time: Bowie music is Berlin music)

Bösebrücke bridge, the northern most of seven east-west crossing points, lies along Bornholmer

Bösebrücke bridge (Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus' photography at the link at the bottom of the post.)

Bösebrücke bridge
(Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus’ photography at the link at the bottom of the post.)

Straße  straddling  train tracks at the border between the districts of  Wedding (west) and Pankow (east). The crossing of the Bösebrücke on 9 November 1989 was one of the first points along the Berlin Wall to fall.

By August 1989, Hungary no longer maintains the physical border barrier with Austria and Czechoslovakia. Both countries began to relax travel restrictions to the west. Many East German were fleeing there to escape to the west as Czechoslovakia and Hungary had no or little travel requirements on East German citizens. The German Embassy in Prague houses and assists 4000

Quo Vadis, a Tribant (Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus' photos at link at the end of the post)

Quo Vadis, a Tribant
(Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus’ photos at link at the end of the post)

refugees in obtaining political asylum. Czech sculptor David Černy created the sculpture Quo Vadis, a Tribant (cheap and deadly German Democratic Republic, GDR, car) on legs to honor the help of the West German government. The sculpture now sits in the garden of the embassy.  The flood of East German refugees begins to swell.

The writing was on the wall for the government of the GDR, who were trying to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the state. Protests had been on-going and more were breaking out across the GDR (generally referred to as East Germany). The people, in whose name the government actions were taken, had enough. The new chant across the GDR was “Wir sind das Volk! “,“We are the people!”. Erich Honecker, leader for life steps down in October, a less hardline party hack,  Egon Krenz takes the helm of the doomed ship. Alexander Platz sees one of the largest demonstrations in the 40 years of the GDR in early November. Now the chant is “we want out”.

So now, on 9 November the party bosses decide to allow refugees and private travel through the border crossings into West Berlin beginning on 10 Nov.  A press conference was called, and when asked when the new rules were to take effect, the spokesman, Günter Schabowski, head of the SED Politburo, looks at his notes and not finding anything to answer that question, erroneously replies “effective immediately”.  The news is broadcast on West German TV and radio and rockets into East Berlin and around the world. The borders are open!

Both Ossis (East Berliners) and Wessis (West Berliners) begin to assemble at the crossings shortly after 8pm. Ossis demanding to be allowed to pass with the Wessis cheering them on. Like all good government flunkies, the border guards, were making frantic phone calls to the higher ups asking “what in the hell do we do now?” Initial directions were to stamp the GDR passports with a special stamp that would not allow return to the GDR, effectively revoking the crosser’s citizenship.  Not to be daunted, those lucky enough to get across the line, assaulted the guards with cries of “we’ll be back”.

As the crowds grew, no one in the Border Guard (Stasi) chain-of command was willing to take responsibility for the issuance orders using lethal force on the ever swelling crowds. Finally, the guards, overwhelmed by the shear numbers of fellow citizens demanding passage, threw open the gates about 10:45 pm. 20,000 Ossis flowed over the Bösebrücke and into the cheering, welcoming crowds assembled in Wedding.

This scene was soon going on at all of the other crossings. The hated wall was breached and the party was on across Berlin. Berlin would no longer be divided, families separated and people dying to get across.

Wessis began climbing up on the wall and were soon joined by their Ossis counterparts. As all

The Trace of the old Berlin Wall (Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus' photography at the link at the bottom of the post.)

The Trace of the old Berlin Wall
(Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus’ photography at the link at the bottom of the post.)

good parties go, dancing broke out to celebrate this historic occasion.  Within days the GDR had announced ten “new” crossings would be opened. In reality this was just the opening of existing roads that had been blocked by the wall. Still the euphoria continued as crowds on both sides cheered the bulldozers.

Author’s Note: The use of Ossis and Wessis are not used in the derogatory sense, just to identify the locations of the people.

[Editor’s Note: Gus Myers lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife of 27 years, Glenda who is from New Mexico.  An Army Brat, Gus was born in Naha Okinawa.  His father was a career officer who, according to Gus, participated in one War, one Police Action and whatever Viet Nam was, 7 campaigns  but had only one Purple Heart. Gus’ mother wore army boots as well and they moved a lot. He likes Hot Lips of M.A.S.H fame and thought civilians were just people with their uniforms at the cleaners until age 8. Gus likes Photography, Travel, Reading, Shooting sports – pistol, rifle and shotgun, Cycling, Construction]  Check out Gus’ photography on Zen Folio (http://gusm.zenfolio.com/ )

 

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