And The Wall Came Tumbling Down November 11, 2009Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts.
Tags: Berlin Wall, Harald Jager
Academics and intellectuals often make the mistake of assuming all significant historical events are the result of intended actions on the part of powerful players. But this account of the fall of the Berlin Wall suggests it was an accident of history—not really intended by anyone but the product of fortuitous mistakes and a guard who could not bring himself to commit mayhem.
A Politburo spokesperson, during an insignificant press conference, misread a note that was handed to him. He mistakenly claimed that East Germans would be allowed to cross the border. And Harold Jager, supervisor of the guards at Bornholmer Gate made a fateful decision:
During the evening news broadcast in West Germany, the anchor Hanns Friedrichs joyfully proclaimed that the ninth of November was a historic day, for the East German government had announced that its borders were open. East Germans who listened surreptitiously to the Western broadcast immediately gathered at the gate. Within an hour, thousands had gathered at the Wall.
In a nearby possible world, this story ends with a bloody riot. Armed guards shoot the boldest of the misinformed citizens; the uninjured retaliate. Guards are killed, the police put down the riot, and the Wall stands, not forever, but for a little white longer as the Soviets eased into openness.
In this world, Harald Jäger, in command at the Bornholmer Gate, decided not to shoot. He called his superiors, who of course had heard of no such policy change, and faced with the gathering, chanting crowds, decided to let a few cross the border; by midnight, he simply opened the gate to all, not taking names or checking identification.
And so the great symbol of Communist oppression was brought down by a bungled message and a prudent decision by a low-level commander.
A lot of people are in debt to Harald Jager.
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