Berlin, Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate, Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin, Germany
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The fall of the Wall

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The fall of the Wall, on 9 November 1989, came as a complete surprise to Manfred Matthies. The demonstrations in the weeks preceding it filled him with fears as he anticipated a violent crackdown on the protesters coming any minute: “the tanks will be here any minute because that’s just how it works in the east.” On the night of the opening, he observed the crumbling of the Wall at various places throughout the city. At the border crossing on the Kochstraße, cigarettes were being handed over the Wall while the border police stood by and watched. At the Brandenburg Gate, Matthies stood on the wall together with others and soon the rumor was spreading that the border would be opened at the Bernauer Straße. Indeed, the citizens of East Berlin were allowed to cross the border that night: “this huge Trabi train covered in a cloud of vapor rolled in through West Berlin. The people were excited. It was a single celebration. People were blowing their horn and clapping on the roofs of the cars.”

Manfred Matthies

Manfred Matthies

Manfred Matthies was born in 1941 in Magdeburg. In 1959, the nearly 18 -year-old Matthies fled with his mother and sister from Magdeburg to East Berlin and from there to West Berlin. It was only later that he learned that his mother had already been under the surveillance of the Stasi because of her contacts with the West. From West Berlin the family was sent to North Rhine-Westphalia, where Matthies worked for several years. In 1961, he went to study in West Berlin where he witnessed the construction of the Wall. Matthies and his brother then became members of a student group that assisted East-German fugitives to migrate across the border to the West. They made use of the complete repertoire of escape methods: forging passports, tunnel excavations, fleeing through the sewers, transportation in converted cars, escaping by car across the Hungarian-Austrian or Yugoslavian border or in a sailboat from Poland via the Baltic Sea. By the end of December 1972, however, Matthies was arrested at a checkpoint while assisting a fugitive and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was imprisoned in Bautzen II for a number of years and released early in 1976. Matthies then went back to West Berlin. When the Wall came down in 1989 it came as a complete surprise to him. The night when the wall collapsed, he was at the Brandenburg Gate.

Berlin, Brandenburg Gate

Dostupné v: English | Deutsch

The erection of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961 situated the Brandenburg Gate right in the middle of the restricted area. As a result, the Gate – for a long time to come – could not be accessed from neither the West nor from the East. Only the East-German border guards and groups of visitors, (mostly state guests to the GDR), accompanied by the staff of the Brandenburg Gate information center were able to approach the visitor platform of the Gate. After the Wall fell 28 years following its construction, the Brandenburg Gate was solemnly reopened in the course of what the Germans called “Die Wende”, or "The Turn" on 22 December 1989 while more than 100,000 people cheered on. The barriers and fortifications were then completely removed. On New Year's Eve 1989/1990, spectators climbed on the gate and purloined various attachments of the Quadriga, like the bridle for example. However, a subsequent investigation revealed far more serious damage: since the construction of the Wall, nothing had been done for the preservation of the Quadriga and some of its internal steel parts were completely rusted. The Quadriga was therefore dismantled and in the course of the ensuing complex restoration the iron cross and the eagle was put back to their original place. The annual cost of the maintenance amounts to approx. 200,000 EUR. After a long period when it had been neglected and due to the vast environmental damage it had suffered, the Gate, (in particular the sandstone structures), was extensively renovated by the Berlin Foundation for Monument Protection. After a 22-month restoration period the Bradenburg Gate was officially unveiled on 3 October 2002.

Berlin, Brandenburg Gate

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The fall of the Wall

The fall of the Wall

Manfred Matthies
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