Back in November 1989, I remember being delighted when the John Craven's Newsround showed the first images of East and West German citizens joining forces to tear down the infamous Berlin Wall. Of course, as a twelve year old child at that time, I had no real idea what the Berlin Wall was, why it was there, and why it was being torn down now but everyone else seemed to be excited about it so I just joined in the celebration!
It wasn’t until quite a few years later that I learned that the Berlin Wall had been erected in 1961 as a way to completely separate the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany), from the reputedly fascist elements of West Germany. However, in reality, the wall actually served to prevent the mass emigration and defection that saw over 3.5 million East Germans flee into West Berlin during the post Wolrd War II period.
The enormous concrete Berlin Wall was 96 miles long in total and was heavily guarded with over three hundred watch towers and bunkers. Along with the much longer Inner German Border, the wall came to symbolise the “Iron Curtain” that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.
As a direct result of Mikhail Gorbachev's dual program of Perestroika and Glasnost (meaning Restructuring and Openness), a series of radical political changes occurred in the Eastern Bloc with dramatic consequences. In 1989, following several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government made an announcement that all GDR citizens were now free to visit West Germany.
Crowds of ecstatic East Germans congregated at the wall as some climbed on top joined by West Germans from the other side. Members of the public began to demolish the wall with hammers eventually breaking through to the other side and eventually people moved freely across the border. The governments later removed most of the rest of the wall and within the space of a year, German reunification was formally concluded on the 3rd October 1990. Shortly afterwards, in 1991, the Cold War was finally concluded.