By the end of 1989 it was clear that the Berlin Wall was on borrowed time, but did you know that the announcement of free travel between East and West was an accident?

30 years ago well before mobile phones and social media, information was delivered at news conferences to media organisations and then distributed to the public via television, radio and print. At a relatively dull press conference in East Berlin on November 9, 1989, an East German Communist official was giving details on future plans to allow greater movement for its citizens to travel West.

Need help with the history of The Cold War? Here’s why the barrier existed.

Günther Schabowski was hastily provided with notes prior to the briefing, but no timeline as to when the new regulations came into effect. When pressed for an answer, Schabowski shuffled through his papers and hesitantly replied, “According to my information … immediately, without delay.”

He was supposed to have announced that the new regulations would take effect from November 10, but crucially that East Germans would still have to apply for a visa for travel — but by this time, journalists had left and began reporting that the wall was open, resulting in thousands of East Germans gathering at checkpoints demanding to cross the border.

By 22:45 the vastly outnumbered soldiers had no choice but to let the masses through without identification checks, prompting wild celebrations as East met West and limits no longer applied!


David Bowie’s iconic hit HEROES was written and recorded in West Berlin while the artist lived there in 1977. In the shadow of the Berlin Wall at Hansa Studios, Bowie was inspired by the sight of producer/engineer Tony Visconti embracing one of the backing vocalists during a break outside, prompting him to write:

“I can remember
By the wall
And the guns
Shot above our heads
And we kissed
As though nothing could fall.”

Following Bowie’s death in January 2016, the German foreign office tweeted, “Goodbye David Bowie. You are now among #Heroes. Thank you for helping to bring down the wall.”

Go further down the rabbit-hole and watch Visconti return to Hansa 30 years after the recording:

By Barry Havenga for LNLA

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