The Man who Opened the Berlin Wall

The Man who Opened the Berlin Wall
  • Harald Jaeger is the man credited with opening the Berlin Wall.
  • It's not me who opened the Wall.It's the East German citizens who gathered that evening, Jaeger says, humbly .
  • Nevertheless the former East German border guard has gone down in history as the man who, literally , did just that.
  • Amid total confusion and without clear orders from on high, Jaeger made the snap decision to open the barrier at the Bornholmer Strasse border crossing between East and West Berlin on the night of November 9, 1989.
  • Euphoric East Germans flooded into the West, peacefully bringing down the Iron Curtain after 28 years of Berlin's division by the iconic symbol of the Cold War.
  • Twenty-five years later, Jaeger, now 71, still recalls the disbelief he felt hearing the words that drew the crowd in the first place.
  • Out of the blue, a communist official had declared on TV that East Germans could now travel abroad immediately, without delay.
  • The East German protest movement had been snowballing for weeks.
  • But Jaeger said that nothing on that day , November 9, had pointed to the fact that history would be made that night.
  • He had anticipated a normal shift, taking over responsibility for 14 officers from 6pm local time, when his boss went home.
  • At the canteen, however, where Jaeger was eating supper, things changed when he watched the TV coverage of the unexpected announcement giving the green light for travel to the West.
  • He rushed back to his post, and telephoned his superior for clarification.
  • “You're calling because of such a stupid thing?” his boss grumbled,instructing Jaeger to simply send the citizens home.
  • The crowd kept swelling and by around 9 pm, the access road to the border crossing was blocked by the mass of people.
  • Jaeger picked up the phone again and shouted down the line.
  • Jaeger then received orders to identify the most agitated members of the crowd and let them alone cross into the West.
  • But that had the opposite effect. The crowd became increasingly agitated.
  • “That's when I said to myself: `Now it's for you to act'.“ he said.
  • At around 11.30 pm, he gave the fateful order:Open the barrier!