Germans recall the fall of the Berlin Wallby Julie Siple, Minnesota Public Radio
The Berlin Wall fell unexpectedly on Nov. 9, 1989, shocking Berliners as well as the rest of the world. In the following days, people danced and celebrated on the wall, chipping away at the 28-year-old barrier with hammers and chisels. Millions of East Germans lined up to cross over to West Berlin, many for the first time. Across the world, people watched as Germans tore down one of the most recognizable symbols of the Cold War.
When they first heard the news, some Berliners rushed to the wall. Some headed for West Berlin's busiest shopping area. Others watched the historic events on television, wondering what it all meant. Listen to Germans recall the events of November, 1989 (using audio links above right).
Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff was a young reporter for a leading German newspaper on Nov. 9, 1989. As soon as he heard the news, he dropped his story and hitchhiked from Hamburg to Berlin. Soon, he was among the Germans sitting on the wall that night. Kleine-Brockhoff is now the Senior Director for Policy Programs at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
Alke Arens grew up in East Germany, and was one of thousands of Germans who escaped the GDR through the German embassy in Prague. After taking great risk to reach Czechoslovakia, she arrived in free West Germany just two weeks before the wall fell. Arens is now a teacher in Berlin.
Shelly Kupferberg is Jewish and was living in West Berlin with her father, mother, and sister on Nov. 9, 1989. When the wall fell, her father was worried about how the changes would affect foreigners. Despite his concerns 20 years ago, Kupferberg still lives in Berlin today -- now with her husband and children.
David Gill is a protestant minister from East Berlin. After the wall fell, he was part of the citizens group that collected Stasi files from storage facilities all over Berlin, so that the East German government couldn't destroy them. Later, he was appointed spokesman for the agency charged with saving and opening the Stasi files.
Martina Schultke was living in West Berlin when the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989. She remembers the streams of East Germans who crossed into the west, some driving through her neighborhood in East German trabants. Today, Schultke still lives in Berlin, where she is a teacher.
Peter Zimmermann, a West Berliner, spent part of the evening of Nov. 9, 1989 drinking a beer with East Berliners who were in the west for the first time in their lives. He was also one of many Berliners who hopped over the wall that night. Zimmermann still lives in Berlin, where he is a journalist at Deutsche Welle.
Tom Wassmann grew up in the American sector of West Berlin. He didn't rush to the wall on Nov. 9 like some Berliners; in fact, he didn't even know the wall had fallen until the next morning. Wassmann remembers the streams of East Berliners who visited the city in the following days.