Fall of the Berlin Wall: Timeline

A history of the events that caused the Berlin Wall to fall on November 9, 1989.


Aug. 13 The border between East and West Berlin is closed and barbed wire and fencing is erected; concrete appears two days later. The wall would eventually grow to be a 96-mile barrier encircling West Berlin.

Aug. 15 Conrad Schumann, a 19-year-old East German border guard, was the first person photographed escaping to West Germany. About 10,000 people attempted escapes, and 5,000 succeeded.

Aug. 24 Gunter Litfin, a 24-year-old tailor's apprentice, was the first person shot dead trying to escape.


Aug. 17 Peter Fechter, 18, was shot while trying to escape. He became an icon of the brutality of the wall because he fell on the border strip on the east side in view of West German authorities, but neither they nor bystanders were allowed to assist him. He died where he fell.


June 26 In a speech on the West German side of the Berlin Wall, President John F. Kennedy says: "There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin." He also utters the phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner).

Dec. 17 After much negotiation, an agreement is reached allowing West Berliners to visit relatives in East Berlin on a limited basis.


East German authorities order stricter border controls – with additional wall segments and barbed wire to foil escapes – after negotiations for freer crossings break down.


Sept. 3 The Four-Power Agreement on Berlin was signed. The accord led to eased travel restrictions from West Germany to West Berlin as well as an opening of trade and diplomatic ties between East Germany and West Germany


A second wall is built behind the original wall deeper inside East German territory, including touch-sensitive fencing with weapons mounted to fire at anyone touching the fence.


Oct. 7 Three teenagers are killed when East German police clash with protesters demanding "Down with the wall!"


Aug. 31 An escalation of Eastern European reform movements, begun in the 1970s, culminates in an agreement between the Communist Polish government and striking Gdansk shipyard workers led by electrician Lech Walesa. The workers ended their strike and the government guaranteed the workers' right to form independent trade unions as well as to strike. This leads to the rise of the anticommunist Solidarity movement.


June 12 Speaking in West Berlin at the wall, US President Ronald Reagan says : "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."


February 6 Chris Gueffroy is the last person shot and killed trying to escape. Meanwhile, the Polish government initiates talks with the opposition to defuse social unrest.

April 5 The Roundtable Agreement is signed in Poland, legalizing independent trade unions and calling the first partially democratic elections in June.

May 2 Dismantling of the Iron Curtain – the boundary between Warsaw Pact and NATO countries – begins as Hungary disables the electric alarm system and cuts through barbed wire on its border with Austria.

Aug. 19 The 'Pan-European Picnic' – a peace demonstration at the Hungarian town of Sopron on the Austrian border – turns into an exodus when Hungarian border guards hold their fire as 600 East German citizens flee to the West .

Aug. 24 Tadeusz Mazowiecki is appointed Polish prime minister, becoming the first noncommunist head of state in Eastern Europe in more than 40 years.

Sept. 10 Hungary reopens its border with East Germany, allowing 13,000 East Germans passage to escape through Austria.

Oct. 18 East German leader Erich Honecker is forced to resign.

Nov. 4 One million people rally in East Berlin during weeks of mounting demonstrations.

Nov. 9 The Berlin Wall falls.

Nov. 17 The 'Velvet Revolution' in Czechoslovakia erupts in reaction to a police crackdown on peaceful student protests in Prague. Days of mass demonstrations ensue.

Nov. 24 Communists in Prague step down.

Dec. 3 Soviet spokesman Gennady Gerasimov, speaking after a press conference between George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, who were concluding a shipboard summit at Malta, declared: "From Yalta to Malta, the cold war ended at 12.45 p.m. today."

Dec. 22 Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu is overthrown. He and his wife, Elena, are executed three days later after a summary trial.


April 8 Hungary elects a non-communist government.

Oct. 3 Germany unifies.

Dec. 9 Poland elects Lech Walesa president.

July 1 Baltic states gain independence from the Soviet Union.

Dec. 25 The Soviet Union dissolves.

Compiled by Leigh Montgomery and Elizabeth Ryan

Sources: City of Berlin website, CQ Researcher, Die-Berliner-Mauer.de, ForesightNews, George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Newseum, news & wire reports

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