The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.
Author: Nick Allen
Page 34 ( 8 pages)
On February 5, 1989, 20-year-old East German waiter Chris Gueffroy decided to take a chance at a new life in the West. Having heard that the East German border guards’ shoot-to-kill order had been repealed, Gueffroy and a friend, Christian Gaudian, chose to scale the Berlin Wall near a remote canal on the edge of the divided city.
Their information was wrong. When the pair passed the first 3.5-meter wall that night, they tripped an alarm signal, bathing them in white light. They were then hit by a hail of bullets as they tried to climb the last 2.9-meter metal barrier that stood between them and freedom.
Gueffroy died from a shot to the heart; Gaudian was seriously injured and taken into custody.
They were the last escapees from East Germany to be felled by border guards’ rifles. Nine months later, the shoot-to-kill order was indeed suspended, as border controls were slackened in East Germany and removed altogether in other Eastern Bloc countries.
Then, on November 9, 1989, after an erroneous announcement by an East German official about free travel to the West, thousands of clamouring East Germans forced the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain open once and for all.
In Moscow, Mikhail Gorbachev was not even woken by his aides as the news came in. But the Soviet leader’s foreign affairs adviser, Anatoly Chernyayev, recorded the moment in his diary.
“The Berlin Wall has collapsed. This entire era in the history of the socialist system is over,” he wrote.
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