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30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in photos

The Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989. Here's what it looks like today.

Shara Tibken
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
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Berlin Wall

Nov. 9, 2019, marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

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Berlin Wall

After World War II, Germany was divided between East and West. The West, with the help of the US and Britain, flourished and modernized. The East, under the influence of the Soviet Union, struggled. About 3.6 million East Germans, 20% of the population, fled between 1945 and 1961. 

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Berlin Wall

East Germany, known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), didn't want the rest of its citizens to leave for the richer West, so in August 1961 it built barriers to keep its people in. The official GDR line: It wanted to keep "decadent, immoral westerners out." 

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Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall divided Bernauer Strasse in the northern part of the city. When the GDR sealed the border on Aug. 13, 1961, it devastated the neighborhood.

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Berlin Wall

Families and friends were separated from each other. 

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Berlin Wall

A memorial along Bernauer Strasse shows photos of some of those people who died trying to flee East Berlin. 

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7 of 30 Courtesy of Günter Wetzel

Fleeing via hot air balloon

Günter Wetzel and Peter Strelzyk succeeded in fleeing East Germany for West. They built a hot air balloon to escape with their families in September 1979. 

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8 of 30 Courtesy of Günter Wetzel

Fleeing via hot air balloon

Wetzel and Strelzyk used only a magazine article as a guide when building their hot air balloon to escape East Germany. They didn't have time to weave a fancy basket. The balloon carried eight people. 

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Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989. Today, there are still spots around Berlin where you can visit remnants of the wall, like on Bernauer Strasse.

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Berlin Wall

The Cold War was thawing toward the end of 1989. On Nov. 9, a spokesman for East Berlin's Communist Party said GDR citizens would be able to cross into the West. 

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Berlin Wall

When people heard that, they crowded the border crossings to head to the West. 

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Berlin Wall

The East German government couldn't go back, and the border was officially open. 

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Berlin Wall

East and West Germany reunited nearly a year later, on Oct. 3, 1990. Family members who hadn't seen each other in decades were reunited. 

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Berlin Wall

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Remnants of the wall

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Berlin Wall

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Berlin Wall

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Brandenburg Gate

The Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989. In November 2019, the the city held a weeklong celebration for the 30th anniversary. That included a display at the famous Brandenburg Gate.

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Art at Brandenburg Gate

The "Visions in Motion" art installation of 30,000 ribbons hung near the Brandenburg Gate to represent the wishes and memories of 30,000 people.

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Art at Brandenburg Gate

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East Side Gallery

Only a few days after the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, artists started painting the east side of the structure. This area became the East Side Gallery.

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East Side Gallery

It's the longest preserved piece of the Berlin Wall. Over 100 artists from 21 countries painting images on a 1.3km stretch of the former border barrier.

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East Side Gallery

The more than 100 paintings demonstrated "that in the end, the desire for freedom and creativity is stronger than sanctions and force," said a display at the East Side Gallery.

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East Side Gallery

The City of Berlin made the East Side Gallery an official monument in November 1991, saving it from demolition.

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East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is one of the only remaining strips of the Wall still standing in Berlin. 

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East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery has gone through two major refurbishments, in 2000 and 2009. The artists had to repaint their murals after the wall was repaired to address weather, graffiti and other damage. 

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East Side Gallery

Some artists refused to recreate their work, saying they didn't approve of the renovation and didn't want to alter the history of their murals. 

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East Side Gallery

The back side of the East Side Gallery was initially kept white, and it has become a popular graffiti canvas. The city recently repainted that side white to play a video exhibit about the fall of the wall for the 30th anniversary in November 2019. 

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East Side Gallery

On the back side of Berlin's East Side Gallery is an open-air exhibit commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall. And on the Spree River is a light exhibit called "What is here now, what once was here."

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East Side Gallery

Light artist Rainer Walter Gottemeier installed 50 neon rod buoys and numerous flashing signal rescue lamps to symbolize the border between Kreuzberg in the former West Berlin and Friedrichshain in the former East. 

These photos were produced as part of the Goethe-Institut's Close-Up journalists' exchange program and Wunderbar Together-The Year of German-American Friendship. More information can be found at www.goethe.de/nahaufnahmeand at #GoetheCloseUp and #WunderbarTogether.

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