Primary Sources

US Mission cable, Summary of Berlin Press End of the Cold War


The press excerpts gathered here by the U.S. Embassy in East Berlin and transmitted to offices in Washington, Bonn, Brussels, and Tokyo reflect the growing urgency of the situation in East Berlin. This press report comes just days after two of the largest days of demonstrations in Berlin, Leipzig, and elsewhere on October 7 and 9, 1989.

West Berlin's governing mayor, Walter Momper noted in one reported statement that the new security measures taken by the East German border guards were in violation of international agreements, hearkening back to Cold War crises of 1948 and 1961. Newspapers representing the voices of both the right and the left articulated the perception that the current GDR regime was incapable of real reform, with the Berliner Morgenpost going so far as to refer to Erich Honecker as a "liberal" among a group of even more conservative members of the East German politburo.


U.S. Mission Berlin to U.S. Secretary of State, "Summary of Berlin Press," 13 October 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt


Momper on GDR: Commenting in a speech at the Abgeordnetenhaus on recent signs of change in the GDR Government. Governing Mayor Walter Momper said the time of fear in the GDR is over. The government is breaking up old patterns of thought. But this is not yet the expected breakthrough toward democracy. He said crossing points by East Berlin guards constitute a grave violation of the Visitors Agreement and of the Four Power Agreement, he stated. But he announced that the Senat will continue talks with the GDR government to achieve good neighborly relations in all areas (VB, TGS, BMP, TAZ, FAZ).

GDR Reinforces Sector Border Installations: East Berlin border guards have begun ramming poles into the river bank at arm's length distance from the Spree [river]. Next to the Reichstag there is speculation that they are building an underwater fence to prevent their people from swimming to the west (TGS).


SED Under Pressure: GDR Deputy State Council Chairman Goetting, the GDR's Academy of Fine Arts, and the Cultural Association (Kulturbund) of the GDR yesterday called for more freedom of the press, more tolerant authorities and a thorough investigation of the causes which led to the mass exodus of GDR residents to the West (most papers).


The independent-conservative Berliner Morgenpost, under the headline "The SED Sticks to its Power" features an editorial by Rudolf Stiege who says: "One should really not believe that the overdue reforms in the GDR depend on whether or not GDR leader Honecker is at the helm ... one should bear in mind that Honecker in the circle of old orthodox hardliners such as Hager, Axen and Mielke, appears like a liberal. Western GDR experts kept on whisperig among themselves for a long time that some day, everybody will long for the good old times under Honecker.

"Is all this supposed to be different now? To be sure, the SED politburo obviously demanded, in a rather rude tone, that Honecker swiftly prepare a report on the situation and the Secretary General has canceled a trip to Denmark, but this does not mean at all that Honecker will be toppled in the immediate future. It is possible that some hardliners in East Berlin have picked Honecker as a scapegoat and want to sacrifice him to soothe the situation in the GDR, only to get back to the controls after this strategic maneuver.

"One thing is absolutely certain: the current SED is unable to carry out real reforms - with or without Honecker. The SED does not want to share its power."(MP)

Far-Left TAZ, under the headline "Appeasement without Reforms," includes a guest commentary by Lutz Rathenow, East German writer from East Berlin who says: "While the borders to Czechoslovakia and Poland are made increasingly less crossable, the politburo wants to talk with us about the possibilities of traveling abroad. We are supposed to learn about our inability to travel. If they up there (the political leaders) really wanted a dialogue, they would at least try to correct the mistakes made in the recent past. They would, for instance, permit the Soviet "Sputnik" magazine to be made available again. They would release all political prisoners and would apologize to those who were arrested and beaten up for no reason on October 7 and 9."


How to Cite this Source

US Mission Berlin, "US Mission cable, Summary of Berlin Press End of the Cold War," Making the History of 1989, Item #425, (accessed January 24 2022, 8:09 am).

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