Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

November 1989: East German guards watch in anticipation as they prepare to let East Germans enter West Berlin through Potsdamer Platz, near the Brandenburg Gate. This photo was published in the Dec. 17, 1989, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Nov. 10, 1989: A man is chipping away at the Berlin Wall near the Brandenburg Gate on the West Berlin side. This photo was published with a Berlin Wall 10th anniversary story in the Oct. 24, 1999, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Nov. 10, 1989: An East German Trabant is playfully jiggled by West Germans as it passes through the first opening in the Berlin Wall at Wollank Strasse in Berlin. This photo was published in the Dec. 17, 1989, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Nov. 11, 1989: East German border guards are seen through a gap in the Berlin Wall after demonstrators pulled down a segment of the wall at Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. This photo was published in the Nov. 8, 2009, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: LIONEL CIRONNEAU / Associated Press

Nov. 11, 1989: People celebrate the opening of the Berlin Wall. This photo was published in the Nov. 8, 2009, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: EPA / DPA FILE

August 1999: Christel Fuhrman, 73, stands behind her home, now a bed and breakfast in Doemitz overlooking the Elbe River. Doemitz is a small 13th century fortress town of brick factories and half-timbered farmhouses looking out to the meandering river. Much of her property was lost in 1961, when East German guards strung barbed wire from tree to tree about 6 feet from her living room windows, and constructed a wall to keep people living in Doemitz from looking out to the river and beyond. This photo was published in the Oct. 24, 1999, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

August 1977: Marina Mueller, 48, the de facto town historian in Doemitz, Germany, looks west over the Elbe River from the wall of a 13th century fortress. The town was located just inside the former German Democratic Republic - East Germany. This photo was published in the Oct. 24, 1999, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

August 1999: View of Doemitz, Germany, from the top of the town's evangelical church. Doemitz sits along a stretch of the Elbe River, in background, where barbed wire went up between East and West Germany. This photo was published in the Oct. 24, 1999, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

August 1999: Berlin photographer Lothar Steiner takes a time exposure at the famous Brandenburg Gate, the iconic site that once separated East and West Germany. This photo was published in the Oct. 24, 1999, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

August 1999: Denis Eissnes and Silvia Thomas walk past remains of the Berlin Wall at Bernauer Street. This photo was published in the Oct. 24, 1999, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

August 1999: Mirrored office towers under construction at the famous Potsdamer Platz. This section of Berlin was turned into a dead zone by the Berlin Wall. This photo was published in the Oct. 24, 1999, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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The fall of the Berlin Wall

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The fall of the Berlin Wall

After 40 years of Cold War tensions, no one expected the quick 1989 collapse of Eastern European communist governments.

On Dec. 17, 1989, the Los Angeles Times published a special 14-page report on the changes in Eastern Europe. The section began by reporting:

Standing in history’s limelight is no guard against history’s pure surprises.

Of the world’s spectators at the events on 1989 in Eastern Europe, perhaps none was more amazed by the drama, and the swiftness of its unfolding, than the people who lived at its center. To those most closely involved, it was at once exhilarating and frightening, and the greatest adventure of their lives.

For 40 years, Communists had been in control. As Winston Churchill said on 1946, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”

Each decade since World War II had brought an attempt to end communism or reform it. All had failed. The steel logic of tanks ruled.

But 1989 was the end of the tunnel. It was history happening, the curtain rising.

The outcome, as the impossible followed the improbable, was never certain. No one who lived there – no coal miner, no grandmother in line for her kielbasa, no expert, no savant, no political scientist, no historian reading the future from the past – could have forecast in January the collapse of the Wall in November.

They say it took 10 years in Poland, 10 months in Hungary, 10 weeks in East Germany and 10 days in Czechoslovakia. It was an arresting simplification to describe a year of historic magnitude and interlocking complexity.

It was, above all, a rich and amazing tale.

The above photo gallery mainly consists of images by staff photographer Al Seib, who covered the 1989 events for the Los Angeles Times. He returned in 1999 for 10th anniversary coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The first image in the gallery was the cover photo of the Dec. 17, 1989, Los Angeles Times special section titled “The Curtain Rises – Eastern Europe 1989.”

For more, check out this Sept. 13, 2009, Los Angeles Times column by Michael Meyer: The picnic that brought down the Berlin Wall. Meyer was Newsweek’s bureau chief for Germany and Eastern Europe in 1989.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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4 Comments

  1. November 9, 2013, 7:00 am

    In Hungary in 1989 the despotic bolshevik regime only made a metamorhosis, the despotism continued, only the surface changed. Till 2010 the regime could keep the power, the bolshevik constitution law stayed valid. During the dawled away twenty years, the bolshevik cadroes became extremely rich, due to the strong corruption. Today the changes only started, but despite of the power of the governity inside the parliament, the extreme leftist cadroes dominates the law curts, the economy etc. The USA and the EU helps the extreme left parties of Hungary, therefore the freedom of Hungary is still in danger. It seems, that the cosmopoitism of the USA and the internationalism of the Sovjet Uninon has a lot in common. Both of them has hungarophoby…

    By: Bakonyi Gábor.
  2. November 9, 2013, 11:50 am

    This is great photo gallery! For more pics and a blog post, see Wir Sind Das Volk! @
    http://thebrazenheadpress.blogspot.ca/2013/11/wir

    By: brazenhead
  3. November 9, 2013, 9:57 pm

    From the viewpoint of the hungarians, only the surface changed in 1989. The despotic regime only made a metamorphosis, and continued using a new image. The real changes stared only in 2010, when the extreme left parties lost the elections. During the lost twenty years the bolshevik cadroes became exremely rich, and the hungarian nation became poor due to the strong corruption. Today, we can not feel ourselfes free yet, because the law courts, the economy etc. are still dominated by the bolshevik cadroes. On the other hand, the freedom of Hungary is in danger, because both parties of the USA and the extreme left parties of the European Union tries to restaurate the neo-bolshevik regime in Hungary.

    By: bakonyi_gabor
  4. November 10, 2013, 7:08 pm

    Great photo essay!

    By: Steve

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