Primary Sources

Gunter Schabowski Press Conference


Description

Schabowski, the spokesman for the East German Communist Party Politburo, played a vital role in the toppling of the East German Communist government in the fall of 1989. During a press conference on November 9, 1989, a reporter asked him about new travel regulations issued by the government that seemed to indicate the possibility of easier travel into West Berlin through the Berlin Wall. Schabowski had only recently received a copy of the new regulations and had not yet read them carefully. The reporter asked when, exactly, East German citizens could begin to take advantage of these new travel rules. Schabowski shrugged and responded, "from now.”

The result of this mis-statement was the ensuing flood of East Germans into West Berlin. That evening Reuters reported (incorrectly) that East German citizens could cross into West Germany by any border crossing and West German television news programs reported that the Berlin Wall was opening. Within minutes, thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of Berliners, both East and West, began converging on the Berlin Wall. Without orders for how to handle the surging crowds, the East German border guards simply opened the gates. Crowds poured through in both directions and within minutes began tearing down the wall that had for so long symbolized the division of Europe into a Communist East and a non-Communist West.

To view the transcript of the press conference, click here.

Source

You Tube, video no longer available

How to Cite this Source

West German News Program,, "Gunter Schabowski Press Conference," Making the History of 1989, Item #704, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/704 (accessed October 31 2014, 4:06 pm).