18 stunning photos from the night the Berlin Wall came down 28 years ago

East Germans celebrate as they climbed the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate November 10, 1989.

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East Germans celebrate as they climbed the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate November 10, 1989.
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Str Old

    The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 and separated East and West Berlin. The wall divided families and took away basic human rights. On November 9, 1989, people gathered at the wall to begin tearing it down after it was announced by the East German Communist Party that citizens of the German Democratic Republic could cross the border whenever they pleased.

This week marks the 28th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

Built in 1961, the wall divided East and West Berlin. Constructed by the eastern, Soviet-ruled portion of the city, the wall was meant to keep Western “fascists” from invading the East – but it also served as a barricade to those Easterners attempting to migrate to the West, capitalist territory.

The barbed-wire-topped wall divided families and took away basic human rights, keeping the population of East Berlin trapped inside Soviet territory. At 12 feet tall and 4 feet wide, the wall and its surrounding security systems were known as “The Death Strip,” as nearly 100 people were killed in their attempt to cross its miles of trenches and trip-wire machine guns.

On November 9, 1989, it was announced by the East German Communist Party that citizens of the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, could cross the border whenever they pleased. That night, mayhem ensued at the border. Many who lived in the East crossed freely to the West for the first time in nearly 30 years, and citizens even began chipping away at the wall.

Ahead, see photos from that infamous night and the nights that followed.


East German soldiers act as a barricade, blocking West Berliners waiting to welcome East Berlin citizens at the Allied guardhouse “Checkpoint Charlie” November 9, 1989.

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Fabrizio Bensch

When the clock struck midnight, all the checkpoints along the wall were forced to open.

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Fabrizio Bensch

Berliners carried hammers and chisels to begin chipping away at the wall.

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Fabrizio Bensch

Both East and West German citizens celebrated as they climbed the wall at the Brandenburg Gate.

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Fabrizio Bensch

While in the past those trying to cross the border would resort to digging tunnels, leaping out of buildings that lined the border, or attempting to drive through, on November 9 West German citizens climbed freely atop the Berlin Wall.

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Fabrizio Bensch

East Germans celebrated as they climbed the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate.

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Str Old

West Germans applauded as East Berlin citizens traveled through Checkpoint Charlie on the following day, November 10.

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STR New

There was plenty of celebration as West Berlin citizens welcomed East Germans as they passed the border checkpoint.

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Fabrizio Bensch

West Berlin citizens continued to stand atop the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate November 10.

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STR New

Looking out onto a sea of thousands, East Berlin border guards stood atop the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate November 11.

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Str Old

By November 12, it was no longer only small hammers being used to deconstruct the wall. Here, an East German bulldozer and crane knock down the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz.

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Wolfgang Rattay

East Berliners cross and meet West Berliners at Potsdamer Platz after the Berlin Wall was torn down at this checkpoint November 12. Over 2 million people from East Berlin visited West Berlin just that weekend.

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Wolfgang Rattay

Parts of the Berlin Wall were loaded onto trucks at Potsdamer Platz by November 14.

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Wolfgang Rattay

Thousands walked along the Berlin Wall between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate November 18.

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Reuters Photographer

Even days later, citizens wanted to participate in the destruction. Here, a young West German girl hammers the Berlin Wall November 19.

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Michael Urban

Another section of the Berlin Wall was dismantled by East Germany near the Brandenburg Gate December 22.

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Fabrizio Bensch

This flag reading “Unity” was waved high as these Germans crossed the newly opened border December 22.

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Fabrizio Bensch

Into the following year — 1990 — citizens still wanted their own piece of the Berlin Wall. Here, a man hammers away at Checkpoint Charlie on June 2, 1990.

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Fabrizio Bensch