The fall of the Berlin Wall during the night from 9 to 10 November 1989 symbolised the end of an era for the whole world. For the Germans, the very long post-war period had come to an end. Families and friends were reunited at last, after twenty-eight years of forced separation. While the suddenness of the event took everyone by surprise, GDR citizens had already been demonstrating in the streets to demand political and economic changes for several months. Opposed to the glasnost and perestroika reforms launched a few years earlier in the Soviet Union and unable to curb the fresh exodus of its population to the West, the East German Government was now hanging by a thread.
In the early evening of 9 November, the regime’s representative surprised journalists by making a confusing statement to the effect that GDR citizens could now leave the country through any border checkpoint without the need for special authorisation. Promptly relayed by Western media, the announcement produced an immediate effect as thousands of East Berliners flocked to the border checkpoints. Overwhelmed and lacking any clear instructions, the border guards raised the barriers. For the first time in nearly thirty years, East Berliners could freely travel to the other side of the wall. The Iron Curtain had collapsed and history was being made.