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Berlin Wall, November 9th, 1989

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)


On November 9th, 1989 a spokesman for East Berlin's Communist Party announced that starting at midnight that day, the citizens of the GDR were free to cross the country's borders. The fall of the Berlin Wall (known as the Iron Curtain), which symbolically and physically separated West and East Germany is widely regarded as the start of the end of the cold war, as relations between Russia and America began to thaw.

The first Berlin Wall (made from wire) was constructed overnight on 12 August 1961, after the leader of the East German Communist Party, Walter Ulbricht, ordered a barricade to stop East Germans defecting. It was later extended to 66 miles (3.6 metres high) and strengthened with concrete walls and guard towers, with a further 41 miles of barbed wire fencing and 300 manned look-out towers with armed soldiers.

The wall divided friends, families and loved ones. However, in total, about 5,000 people escaped East Germany by crossing the wall and their were many tales of 'daring do' including acrobat Horst Klein, who crossed the wall dangling off a disused power cable, Hans Strelczyk and Gunter Wetzel, who constructed a hot air balloon and simply floated over the wall. Or Heinz Meixner who cut out his car’s windscreen and ducked underneath the barrier at Checkpoint Charlie and sped off with his mother in the boot.

My claim to fame (if that is the right expression), is that I was in Berlin on the run up to November 9th, 1989 and I was one on the first people to attack the wall with a hammer and chisel. I was promptly arrested by the West German Police for criminal damage, but was subsequently released. After which I went shopping and bought a sledgehammer, then proceeded to make one of the first breaches of the wall.

In the aftershocks that followed, the rest of the Soviet Union tumbled and two years later nearly 400 million people would be freed from the stranglehold of Communism, a deadly ideology that was directly responsible for the death of 142million people.

Of course, as we all know from school, 'nature abhors a vacuum' and so the decline of Communism, has allowed new threats and virulent forms of ideology to spread and take it’s place. Good of course always triumphs in the end over evil. But evil (if left unchecked) always finds a new way in.


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