Berlin, November 1989

Suddenly, unexpected, probably when realizing that the DDR, Deutsche Demokratische Republik, was doomed anyhow, Günther Schabowski, a member of the board of the Socialist Party, at a press conference the 9th of November 1989 made public that all DDR citizens were free to cross the border to West Berlin.

That was a decision already been made by the Secretary General of the Socialist Party, Egon Krentz, resulting from the mass demonstrations that had been going on since several months in the DDR.

But the time was supposed to be in the near future. As soon as the DDR tv news broadcast ended, people started massing at the border crossings in the evening, demanding to be allowed to pass. The guards could not resist, the gates opened.

This was the start for a great optimism among all. But as we see today, the concept of freedom, liberty and downfall of ruthless dictatorship worldwide did not realize. Neither did the openness of information through the worldwideweb bring any significant democratic influence to the broad masses. Now we have brutal, populist political rulers all over the world, even in countries which were supposed to be the most democratic ones. What we can learn from the events in Berlin 1989 is just that liberal democracy is the least bad political system and that it needs to be defended again and again.

Pictures taken on the 16th of November. I spent a few days there researching for a tv documentary series which then we started shooting a week later.

East Berliners, Brandenburger Tor.


Chopping away the wall. Hot refreshments needed in the cold November days.


Queing up for the "Begrüssungsgeld", a welcome greeting from the German "Capitalist" government of 100 Deutsche Marks, worth around 150 Euro(?) today. Until the 20th of November 1989, about 11 million DDR citizens visited West Germany.


Shopping spree at Kurfürstendamm, the world famous street in West Berlin. Trabi, a Trabant, a car made of some sort of plastic with a three cylinder two stroke engine, became a ubiquitous sight on the streets in Western Berlin.



Rough sleeping. In the uncertain political situation, many preferred not to return to the DDR.

Remember all those who died in their quest of a better life.


© Lennart Berggren / Axiom Film     November 2019


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