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30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall

Attempts to escape by aircraft and hot air balloons

November 9th is 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a system of fortifications built by the East German Government to prevent the free movement of people with the Federal Republic of Germany which was located to the west. It was the symbol of the "iron curtain" during the "Cold War", on the border between the areas controlled by France, the United Kingdom and the United States and the former Soviet one. The wall divided the city of Berlin in two for 28 years, from 1961 until 1989. One of the driving forces was the opening of Hungary's borders with Austria on August 23, 1989 which gave the Germans the opportunity to East, which at that time were in other Eastern European countries, to leave the West.

Between West Berlin and East the border was divided militarily by two parallel walls of reinforced concrete, separated by the so-called "Strip of Death", a few tens of meters wide.

During the years there have been numerous attempts to escape, some succeeded (about 5000 people found a way to "pass") but at least 138 individuals were killed by the border police as they tried to overcome it. Some scholars argue that more than 200 were killed after being captured. Among the "historical escapes" we remember that of the two men who took flight lessons to free their brother, painted two ultralight planes with the red star and, wearing military uniforms, reached eastern Germany where they loaded their brother and took him with them. On another occasion, a whole family, having built a hot-air balloon with sewn sheets and propane tanks landed on the other side of the border.

However, we will have to wait until November 9th, 1989: after several weeks of public unrest, the bill on travel and expatriation freedom was written, agreeing on the need to abolish all restrictions. When the East German spokesman Gunter Schabowski broke the news live, a mass of people rushed to the borders, many eastern citizens climbed the wall and passed it to reach the inhabitants on the other side in a festive atmosphere. During the following weeks, small parts of the wall were demolished and taken away by the crowd. The collapse of the wall paved the way for German reunification which was formally concluded on October 3, 1990.

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