1989: The world remembers

Men celebrate atop the Berlin Wall, 1989

 Prague, 1989 Demonstrators on Wenceslas Square

It may be 20 years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall, but emotions are still high.

Readers and listeners from all over the world have been sending in their comments, memories and reactions to the momentous events of 1989. Here is a selection of what we have received.

click BBC Vietnamese

The following comments were written on BBCVietnamese.com’s forum:

“The Berlin Wall fell because it was an obstacle on the way to development of the former socialist block. It actually surrounded them. Internally, they had felt that the Wall bcloked their way to they had to tear it down. But in Vietnam, the Ben-Hai River also divided Vietnam on a smaller scabe. That demarcation line was abolished in 1975 by communist force. Now, as the socialist block already disappeared and collapsed, the (Vietnamese) model of ‘market economy with socialist orientation’ is a new product by some people. Is it able to survive?”
Dan Dat To, Hanoi

A man hammering at the Berlin Wall

“Communism was born with the most beautiful ideals of bringing the best life quality to people. Unfortunately, it evolved in such a downward way, rotting from within and ended up ‘dead’. Capitalism was born very ugly. Today it is still ugly. But it has evolved upwards and kept doing so to last and develop.”
Huu Tai

“Why Germany did manage to unify both geographically and in its people’s minds, but not Vietnam? In my view, there is a fundamental difference between Germany and our nation. That is after the War, they went on to have reconciliation, but in post-war Vietnam, that was robbery in the name of socialist reconstruction. One thirty years later some people began to talk about national reconciliation but the majority oppose that idea. When the Berlin Wall came down, the Western Germans cheered up not because they would have a chance to steal from their compatriots in the East but because their brethrens would be liberated. When the bridge Hien-Luong relinked South and North Vietnam (in 1975), millions of South Vietnamese had to leave their homeland in tears.”
Hoang Viet, Ho Chi Minh City

click BBC Chinese

A selection of comments from the BBC Chinese forum:

“People of Eastern Europe won freedom! Even if there are still problems here and there, people’s living standard has risen considerably, and social stability achieved. They came back to the civilized world, and forever left behind the life of fear and lack of freedom. Not many people miss the life before. China should send a TV crew to report the commemoration activities, and tell the truth.”
‘Human Rights’

“If what happened to East Europe had happened to China in 1989, Chinese would have become a US colony. So, the fall of the Berlin Wall had no benefit to the socialism system, and media should not exaggerate its role.”
‘Xin Xianghong’

The collapse of the Berlin Wall marks the collapse of the European Empire, just like World War I and World War II. It marks the transition of the centre of civilization from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This will be the direction for the world in the next 20 years.

‘Lu Guo’

“The censorship on the internet imposed by the communist regime is the Berlin Wall; it obstructs communication between people and the outside world. This is the way the regime fools its people. Let us netizens unite and fight this internet Berlin Wall, so that truth can be told.”
‘Let’s overthrow the internet Berlin wall’

“I was very excited when the Berlin Wall fell, but look what has happened since? In the Eastern part (of the country), the force on the right is gaining ground and there is rampant xenophobia; many foreigners don’t dare go there; there is high unemployment and a talent drain; in the Western part, welfare has gone down because we have to pay the Unification Tax to subsidy the East. So, what is good about turning capitalist?
Helbe, Hamburg

click BBC Russian

These comments were sent into BBC Russian:

“Has anything changed? Of course, not. If you move furniture around the flat this does not change the personalities of the people who live there. I deal a lot with Germans, both from the West and from the East. They are still finding it hard to live together. It is the same as in Texas – ask the locals about racism there. It easy to break down the wall. But it is stupidity verging on criminal offence to hope that this will change people.”
– Vasily, Moscow, Russia

“The wall was never broken down, it was just moved further East. And it will never be broken down until Russia becomes a colony of Western countries, and its people – their slaves.”
Igor, Russia

I think there still remain walls to be destroyed – on the US-Mexican border, the one in Jerusalem, and, to complete the picture, the Great Wall of China. Then we will have a real democracy.

‘Uncle Sasha’, St Petersburg, Russia

“In 1983 I was in East Germany for student practice. In Berlin I asked my student-friends from Ilmenau what they thought of the fact that their people had been divided. They wisely avoided answering the question shifting the conversation elsewhere. I then knew what the KGB was, but I did not know what Stasi was. It is a miracle that just six years onwards Germany was reunited and there was one unfairness less in the world. I am grateful to Germans for their balanced foreign policy and knowing how to be grateful.”
Vladimir, Smolensk, Russia

“Russia got left behind the wall to the hum of conversations about “partnership” and pressing the “reset” button. All ideological tools of Cold war, such as Freedom House, are still kept alive. In the meantime the new Europeans have acquired new agents of influence such as US-connected politicians.”
Aleksey Sergeyev, St Petersburg, Russia

click BBC News.com

Some comments from readers of BBCNews.com:

“You could feel it in the air that change was coming. I was 20 at the time. Me and two buddies ignored the guards for the first time, jumped on the Wall and started walking backwards and forwards singing old German songs. We jumped down on the other side and I ran straight for my uncle’s house in the Eastern part – I had been there once before, illegally. He wasn’t home so we ran back to the Wall where somebody handed me a hammer and without question I just started pounding away at the Wall. I was so excited that I got exhausted after some time and I gave the hammer to my other mate who started hammering away too. What a night, I will always remember it – so much drinking and singing… It was great to see us as one Germany again.”
Felix Heltmann, Berlin, Germany

“I was seven when the Berlin Wall came down. I remember watching it late at night on the telly and I remember my father being very happy and crying. The next day we drove all the way to Berlin, and helped bring down the Wall. I still have my peace of it as a book stand. Soon after that I remember us visiting relatives and friends in East Germany – people I had never seen before. I also remember my first ride in a Trabi, going 80km/h felt like doing 180km/h in my dad’s VW Passat. Everything was old and falling apart. Many places in Eastern Germany still are. But at least the overwhelming omnipresent smell of brown coal has faded.”
– Markus K., Hamburg, Germany

More from BBC News click here.

Over the last few weeks we have been collecting stories from BBC World Service English listeners:

Folke Kayser in 1986Folke Kayser in 1986

“I grew up in West Berlin very close to the Berlin Wall. In 1986 at the age of 12, I was playing close to the border where the wall was just a fence and a boy on the opposite side saw me and yelled hello. Below the watch towers, across the death strip we exchanged names and addresses and became pen pals. It was a bright sunny summer day with no wind, but still I had to repeat my address several times until I was understood, the barking of the dogs was the greatest disturbance.”
Folke Kayser – click read Folke’s full story here

“We Western students lived in a special block of flats, assigned to us by the authorities. We had East German roommates who had been handpicked. Presumably they were all deemed to be conformist and convinced enough of the system not be tainted by our Western bourgeois values. We did wonder if they informed on us. We checked our rooms for bugs, but never found any. We were probably not looking in the right places.”
Nicola Wearmouth – click read Nicola’s full story here

People in front of the Brandenburg gate in Berlin as part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (8 November 2009)
Ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall have taken place as world leaders, past and present, join tens of thousands of tourists and well-wishers on the streets of the city.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, the first German leader to have grown up in communist East Germany, told a ceremony at the historic Brandenburg Gate that German unity was still incomplete, as the East lagged in economic growth.

The fall of the Wall led to the collapse of Communist power and German reunification; it became a symbol for the end of the Cold War.

The East German Politburo member Guenter SchabowskiGuenter Schabowski was a Politburu member in 1989

On 9 November 1989 the East German Politburo member Guenter Schabowski announced that East Germans would be allowed to travel freely to the West.

Two decades on, Mr Schabowski has been reflecting on his role in the events that led to the reunification of Germany.

While Berlin is celebrating the end of the division between East and West, on the Korean peninsula they’re still staring at each other across a fortified frontier.

The BBC’s John Sudworth is in Imjingak, on border between North and South Korea- the last frontier of the cold war.

South and North Korean family members reunited at Diamond Mountain in North Korea (30 September 2009)

’89 Squares

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989

Where were you when the Berlin Wall came down?

In 1989 people across Eastern Europe gathered in public squares to witness change, join in peaceful protest, and bring about change.


In the first of several reports Outlook travelled to Revolution Square in Bucharest.

Romania, 1989Romania, 1989


Those who were present in Wenceslas Square in Prague at the start of the velvet revolution.


Bank Square in the capital, Warsaw.

Under the communist regime, the square was named after Feliks Dzierżyński, founder of the Bolshevik secret police.

A giant statue of him dominated the square until 1989, when it was finally toppled in a gesture which served as a potent symbol of change in Poland.

Poland 1991Poland 1991


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