It marked the end of an epoch: on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell — and seemingly in an instant, the decades-long Cold War was over.

Built in 1961 by the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) to keep the different sectors of Berlin separated, the wall became the singular symbol of the Cold War divide, and a concrete example of the limits and repression of the communist system.

The final chapter of the Cold War began when East Berlin's Communist Party announced that, from midnight, citizens of the GDR could cross the Iron Curtain. "Tor auf!" ("Open the gate!")

At midnight, the checkpoints were flooded. People, from both sides, grabbed sledgehammers and picks and started to dismantle the wall themselves, paving the way for Germany's reunification and our current post-Cold War epoch.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall © University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Studies

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