The Paducah Sun from Paducah, Kentucky on November 10, 2019 · B13
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The Paducah Sun from Paducah, Kentucky · B13

Paducah, Kentucky
Issue Date:
Sunday, November 10, 2019
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Cancel Features The Paducah Sun • Sunday, November 10, 2019 • 13B 30 YEARS AFTER FALL OF BERLIN WALL BERLIN — After months of overtime writing about up- heaval and protests in East Ger- many , AP’s Frieder Reimold settled in on Nov. 9, 1989, to watch a televised evening brief- ing by Guenter Schabowski, a member of the Communist country’s Politburo. History didn’t give Reimold a break that night. About an hour into the rambling news conference, Schabowski men- tioned that East Germany was lifting restrictions on travel across its border into West Germany. Pressed on when the new regulations would take ef- fect, he looked at his notes and stammered, “As far as I know, this enters into force ... this is immediately, without delay.” It was so offhanded that it took Reimold a little time to recognize the implications of the statement — that East Ger- many was opening the Berlin Wall and the heavily fortified border with West Germany. Carefully, Reimold, then the Berlin bureau chief of The As- sociated Press’ German ser- vice, typed out what has be- come his iconic alert: “DDR oeffnet Grenzen” — “East Ger- many opens borders.” At first, nothing happened. In the days before the smart- phone, news traveled more slowly. But less than one hour later, as West German broad- casters and West Berlin radio station RIAS began picking up the AP alert at the top of the hour in their news programs, East Berliners began jamming border crossings in Berlin. Border guards had received no orders to let anyone across, but within hours gave up trying to hold back the crowds. “This was the alert that changed the course of the night,” Reimold says, looking back as Germany celebrates the 30-year-anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. “The alert sped up a development that sooner or later would have been inevitable in any case.” Built in 1961, the Wall stood for 28 years at the front line of the Cold War between the Americans and the Soviets. It had carved a 97.2-mile swath through Berlin’s heart and the surrounding country- side, and through the hearts of many of its people. Seeming as permanent as death, it cut off East Germans from the sup- posed ideological contamina- tion of the West and stemmed the tide of people fleeing East Germany. Despite the formidable ob- stacle and threat of stiff pun- ishment, many tried to escape by tunneling under it, swim- ming past it, climbing or flying over it. At least 140 people died in the attempt, according to the latest academic research. In the weeks leading up to Schabowski’s announce- ment the pressure had been building, with street protests in Leipzig, East Berlin and elsewhere. Thousands of East Germans had fled the country by seeking refuge in the West German embassy in Prague. “As reporters and journal- ists, we had experienced ev- erything up-close and under extreme pressure,” recalled Reimold, 75, who retired a de- cade ago. “We had cracked lips and red eyes from the exhaus- tion, we felt like we couldn’t go on any longer.” Nobody had expected the border to be opened as quickly as it happened, however — and certainly not with such a hum- drum announcement, which Reimold strained to listen to in the din of the AP’s West Berlin newsroom. “One col- league was sitting next to the TV across the room from me and screaming over everything Schabowski had said, which was quite awkward,” Reimold remembered. “I had to simul- taneously listen to him, listen to what Schabowski was say- ing on TV and at the same time write about it.” Despite the confusion, Re- imold sent out his alert at 7:05 p.m. Other wire services alerted the news as well, but none went so far that moment as to say that Schabowski’s an- nouncement in fact meant that East Germany had opened its border. Reimold’s AP alert is widely seen as having helped nudge the process along, and in a nod to its significance his words are today immortalized in a plaque in the sidewalk on Bornholmer Strasse, the border crossing where people first walked over from East to West. That night, Reimold worked until 2 a.m. When he had fi- nally sent out his last report, he got up and walked over to the office window overlooking the corner of Fasanenstrasse and Kurfuerstendamm — West Berlin’s most glamourous bou- levard. Thousands of people from both parts of the city were streaming past the glitzy stores, drinking beer, celebrat- ing freedom. “And then along comes this little Trabi,” Reimold remem- bers, using the nickname for the typical East German Tra- bant cars. “It stops, scared, doesn’t know what to do with all the masses ahead.” “Until somebody in the crowd notices what’s going on, pulls open the car’s doors, gets other people to join, and all of them bang their hands on the roof of the car and say: ‘Wel- come, welcome, welcome to the West!’” This was the moment, Re- imold said, that he realized something in Germany had “definitively changed and was irreversible.” “And that’s when I noticed that tears were running down my cheeks,” he said. BY KIRSTEN GRIESHABER Associated Press AP reporter recounts covering historic event in 1989 AP Photo/Markus Schreiber Frieder Reimold, the former Berlin bureau chief of The Associated Press’ German service, shows an undated photo from late 1989 or early 1990 showing the staff of the Associated Press German service Berlin offices, in his house in Stansdorf near Berlin. Frieder Reimold was the AP staffer who sent out the iconic AP news alert, “DDR oeffnet Grenze,” or “East Germany opens border” that further accelerated events that night. The people of the photo are (from left) buero chief Frieder Reimhold, West Berlin based correspondent Juergen Mettermeyer, East Berlin based correspondent Ingowerner Schmelz, West Berlin based cor- respondent Annette Ramelsberger, East Berlin office assistant Barbara Knuth and West Berlin office assistant Annette Kreis. AP Photo/Jockel Finck, File East Berliners get helping hands from West Berliners as they climb the Berlin Wall which has divided the city since the end of World War II, near the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) in 1989. The citizens facing the West celebrate the opening of the order that was announced by the East German Communist government hours before. AP Photo/Markus Schreiber Frieder Reimold shows the original print from the iconic As- sociated Press German service news alert, “DDR oeffnet Gren- ze,” or “East Germany opens border” in Stansdorf near Berlin. BERLIN — An escape tunnel underneath the Ber- lin Wall opened to the pub- lic on Thursday for the first time amid celebrations of the 30-year anniversary of the opening of communist East Germany’s border. The tunnel at Bernauer Strasse, near the city’s main Wall memorial, was opened by Mayor Michael Mueller. He thanked those who started digging the 100-yard tunnel in late 1970, nine years after East Germany sealed its border. “It’s great to see that the battle for freedom was also taken underground,” Mueller said before he took a tour of the new ex- hibit. “One can authentically experience ... the courage of the women and men who tried to take people to freedom and resisted the East German regime,” he added. The tunnel was built by a group of people who had escaped earlier to West Berlin. They wanted to help friends and family to flee to the West but, days before it was finished, somebody informed East German of- ficials about it. East German authorities then found the tunnel by using ultrasound tracking and partially destroyed it. Built in 1961, the Wall stood at the front line of the Cold War. It cut off East Germans from the supposed ideological con- tamination of the West and stemmed the tide of people fleeing the country. In the 28 years that the Wall divided the city, more than 70 tunnels were built underneath the 97.2-mile barrier and around 300 people managed to escape through them, according to the Berlin Underworlds As- sociation, which conducts tours of the city’s historic bunkers and tunnels. Most tunnels were dug from the West to the East. Bernauer Strasse in the city’s Mitte neighborhood was one of the most popu- lar spots for tunnel dig- gers because of the high amount of clay in the soil — seven tunnels were built underneath the wall on a 350-yard stretch here. Not all tunnel projects were successful. Some col- lapsed before they could be used, while others were discovered by East Ger- many’s secret police, the Stasi. The newly opened tun- nel at Bernauer Strasse can be reached through an access tunnel built by the Underworlds Association. Through two windows, 24.6 feet under the ground, visitors can peek into the dimly lit 1970 tun- nel but not get inside. The original tunnel is so narrow that the men who built it could only crawl through it. It led from the basement of a corner build- ing on the western side of the Wall to another building on the eastern side. Ulrich Pfeifer, a civil engi- neer and one of the build- ers of the tunnel, made calculations and created maps for the project. Pfeifer fled to West Ber- lin through the sewerage system just a few weeks after the Wall was erected in August 1961. “As a Berliner this wall was inconceivable,” the 84-year-old said. “It was tearing apart families, it was separating all of us.” He said his motivation to dig escape tunnels was “the conviction of my girl- friend, who got seven years in prison.” “She was 22 years old and was sentenced for nothing other than an es- cape attempt,” he said, still angry with the East German regime 30 years after its collapse. Trying to flee East Ger- many was dangerous. Researchers estimate that 140 people died trying to cross the Wall by flying over it, escaping through the sewerage system or jumping from buildings ad- jacent to the border. It is not clear how many people died trying to es- cape specifically through the tunnels. BY KIRSTEN GRIESHABER Associated Press Escape tunnel underneath Berlin Wall opens to public AP Photo/Markus Schreiber An escape tunnel underneath the Berlin Wall, which divided the city for 28 years during the Cold War, is il- luminated as it has been made visible for the public for the first time Thursday in Berlin, Germany. The tunnel was built by a group of people who had escaped earlier from communist East Germany to West Berlin. They wanted to help friends and family to flee to the West, too, but days before it was finished, East German of- ficials discovered and destroyed it.

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