On 9 November 2014, it will be 25 years since the Berlin wall was desecrated after standing there for nearly 30 years as a concrete manifestation of the Iron Curtain preventing citizens within the communist East Germany from fleeing to democratic, capitalist West Berlin.
On the night of 9 November 1989, however, authorities from East Germany suddenly opened the border crossing. Thousands of excited Germans celebrated the fall, by chipping away the wall with hammers and chisels while many danced on top of it.
On the 'Silver Jubilee' of one of the most historic events in the world, here are 10 surprising and interesting facts to know, including brief lessons on its history and significance:
The Berlin Wall Fell by Mistake
East German Politburo member Gunter Schabowski mistakenly announced that restrictions on travel visas would be lifted "immediately, without delay". The announcement led a flood of East Germans and West Germans to the Wall. This led to its ultimate collapse.
Wall was initially Requested to be Built in 1953
The Soviet Union had rejected East Germany's initial request to build the Berlin Wall in 1953 but by the summer of 1961, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev finally agreed to build the wall after more than 1000 people a day started to defect through West Berlin. Residents of Berlin woke up on the morning of 13 August 1961 to find barbed wire fencing on the border.
There were Actually Two Walls
A relatively unknown fact to know on the 25th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall would also be that the 27-mile portion of the barrier that separated the city, consisted of two concrete walls. There was a 160-yard "death strip" in the between, which included watchtowers, trenches, runs for guard dogs, flood lights and trip-wire machine guns, according to History.com.
Wall is Responsible for Death of over 130 People
At least 138 people were either shot dead, suffered fatal accidents or committed suicide after failed escape attempts across the Berlin Wall, according to widely cited researches conducted on this topic.
5,000 People Escaped the Wall None-the-less
The first defector to escape across the wall was 19-year-old East German called Conrad Schumann who guarded the border. He leapt over a 3-foot-high roll of barbed wire just two days after the border was sealed and his escape was captured on a film. Elaborate plans were made by defectors to escape, such as hiding in cars driven by visiting West Berliners, digging secret tunnels and crawling through sewers.
When Wall was Erected, John F. Kennedy was 'Relieved'
One interesting fact that remains unknown to many even on the silver jubilee of the wall's fall is that US President John F. Kennedy – getting increasingly wary of a war after Khrushchev warned him to remove western forces – was relieved when he heard that the communist had barricaded the border. "Its' not a very nice solution, but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war," he is reported to have said. "This is the end of the Berlin crisis".
A part of the destroyed Wall Stands in a Las Vegas Casino
According to History Channel, after the official demolition, more than 40,000 wall sections were recycled into building materials while a few hundred sections were auctioned. One such section is present in the men's room of the Main Street Station Casino in Las Vegas where urinals are mounted on a graffiti-covered wall segment. It is protected behind glass.
According to the Berlin Wall memorial website, a mass exodus of East Germans into West Germany began almost 15 years before the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961. In fact, so much was the frenzy that by the time the wall was ultimately erected, East Germany had lost one-sixth of its population.
East Germany said the Wall was "Antifascist Bulwark"
The East German government claimed the reason behind erecting the wall was to keep Western fascists, spies and ideas out.
Kennedy Reportedly said he was "Jelly Doughnut" (Berliner)
In a speech delivered on 26 June 1963, Kennedy has been famously quoted as saying to a crowd "Ich bin ein Berliner." While the president intended to express his solidarity by saying he was one of them, some critics have explored the grammatical nitty-gritty of his speech to claim that by adding the indefinite article "ein," he actually called himself a jelly doughnut, known in much of Germany as a "Berliner". However, according to linguists, "ein" would be required while speaking figuratively.