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The Wall in 1989

The Wall in 1989
Source: dpa

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Collapse of the GDR

November 1989: for almost 40 years they could be seen "over there" behind the Wall. Suddenly they're here, crossing over the Rhine into Cologne - the "Trabbis", those strange little East German cars, trailing a puff of smoke behind them. Smiles, curiosity - some turned up noses. The bulletWall has come down!

The "Iron Curtain" is opening. In the months before the Wall across Germany comes down, East Germans are already bulletfleeing the GDR by taking a detour through other Eastern bloc countries on their way to the Federal Republic.

But on 9 November 1989 the trickle turns into a torrent as the GDR leadership grants the right of free travel to its citizens.

In the months that follow the demonstrators gather in Leipzig and elsewhere to call for reunification. "We are one people!" they shout until the FRG and the GDR are officially united in October 1990.

Until then, travel has enabled people to mix freely, and many East Germans are on the road. In fact, so many GDR citizens want to move to the "golden" West that the reception facilities in North Rhine-Westphalia can't cope, and the state government stops further admissions on 27 March 1990.

In July 1990 the bulletdeutschmark is introduced in the GDR, and those sluggish Trabbant bulletcars that identify the East German drivers steadily disappear from the roads.

They are exchanged for bulletwestern models, which go twice the speed. Not surprisingly, accident rates soar and there are many fatalities, especially young drivers.

Dirk Bitzer

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