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Tear down this wall!
Tear down this wall!
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"Tear down this wall"
Complete speech by Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate, Friday, June 12, 1987. "Tear down this wall" passage begins at 11:10 into this video.
Date June 12, 1987
Venue Brandenburg Gate
Location West Berlin
Also known as Berlin Wall Speech
Participants Ronald Reagan
This article is part of
a series about Ronald Reagan
Political positionsElectoral history
33rd Governor of California
40th President of the United States
Presidency timelineTransitionInaugurations firstsecond
Domestic ReaganomicsForeign Reagan Doctrineinternational trips
Appointments CabinetJudiciary First term
Cold War (1979–1985)Assassination attemptInvasion of Grenada"Evil Empire"
Cold War (1985–1991)disasterLibya bombingIran–Contra affair"Tear down this wall!"INF Treaty
Presidential Library and MuseumMedal of FreedomBibliography
Alzheimer's diagnosisDeath and state funeral
Speeches and debates "A Time for Choosing"Reagan EraReagan AwardDepictionsSixth Party System
Part of a series on the
History of Berlin
Margraviate of Brandenburg (1157–1806)
Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918)
German Empire (1871–1918)
Free State of Prussia (1918–1947)
Weimar Republic (1919–1933)
Assassination of Talat Pasha
Greater Berlin Act
Nazi Germany (1933–1945)
Deportation of Jews from Berlin
Bombing of Berlin in World War II
Battle of Berlin
West Germany and East Germany (1945–1990)
West Berlin and East Berlin
Berlin Blockade (1948–1949)
Berlin Crisis of 1961
"Ich bin ein Berliner" (1963)
"Tear Down This Wall" (1987)
Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989)
Federal Republic of Germany (1990–present)
History of Germany and History of Europe
See also Timeline of Berlin vte
"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall", also known as the Berlin Wall Speech, was a speech delivered by United States President Ronald Reagan in West Berlin on June 12, 1987. Reagan called for the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to open the Berlin Wall, which had separated West and East Berlin since 1961. The name is derived from a key line in the middle of the speech: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Though Reagan's speech received relatively little media coverage at the time, it became widely known after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In the post-Cold War era, it was often seen as one of the most memorable performances of an American president in Berlin after John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech of 1963.
1 Background 2 Speech
3 Response and legacy
4 Gallery 5 See also 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links
The "tear down this wall" speech was not the first time Reagan had addressed the issue of the Berlin Wall. In a visit to West Berlin in June 1982, he stated, "I'd like to ask the Soviet leaders one question [...] Why is the wall there?". In 1986, 25 years after the construction of the wall, in response to West German newspaper asking when he thought the wall could be removed, Reagan said, "I call upon those responsible to dismantle it [today]".
On the day before Reagan's 1987 visit, 50,000 people had demonstrated against the presence of the American president in West Berlin. The city saw the largest police deployment in its history after World War II. During the visit itself, wide swaths of Berlin were closed off to prevent further anti-Reagan protests. The district of Kreuzberg, in particular, was targeted in this respect, with movement throughout this portion of the city in effect restrained completely (for instance the U1 U-Bahn line was shut down). About those demonstrators, Reagan said at the end of his speech: "I wonder if they ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they are doing again".
The speech drew controversy within the Reagan administration, with several senior staffers and aides advising against the phrase, saying anything that might cause further East-West tensions or potential embarrassment to Gorbachev, with whom President Reagan had built a good relationship, should be omitted. American officials in West Germany and presidential speechwriters, including Peter Robinson, thought otherwise. According to an account by Robinson, he traveled to West Germany to inspect potential speech venues, and gained an overall sense that the majority of West Berliners opposed the wall. Despite getting little support for suggesting Reagan demand the wall's removal, Robinson kept the phrase in the speech text. On Monday, May 18, 1987, President Reagan met with his speechwriters and responded to the speech by saying, "I thought it was a good, solid draft." White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker objected, saying it sounded "extreme" and "unpresidential", and Deputy U.S. National Security Advisor Colin Powell agreed. Nevertheless, Reagan liked the passage, saying, "I think we'll leave it in."
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What Happened the Day the Berlin Wall Fell
By midnight on Nov. 9, 1989, the checkpoints were completely overrun. Here's what to know about how the infamous barrier was overcome.
'The Gates in the Wall Stand Open Wide.' What Happened the Day the Berlin Wall Fell
Watch the Most Famous Speeches About the Berlin Wall By U.S. Presidents
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BY ALBINKO HASIC
NOVEMBER 7, 2019 10:30 AM EST
n June 12, 1987 — more than 25 years after the Berlin Wall first divided the city’s East and West — U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave a famous speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, challenging his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev by declaring, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Only a few years later, on Nov. 9, 1989, it was not Mr. Gorbachev but the German people who finally tore down the barrier. The story of the Berlin Wall is one of division and repression, but also of the yearning for freedom — and the events that led up to its toppling are no exception.
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The Wall Rises
Following World War II, at the Yalta and Potsdam peace conferences, it was determined among the war’s victors that Germany’s territories would be split into four “Allied occupation zones.” The eastern part of the country went to the Soviet Union, while the western part went to the United States, Great Britain and eventually France. Berlin, as the capital, would be likewise split.
On May 23, 1949, the three Allied zones became the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) while the former Soviet occupation zone became the German Democratic Republic (GDR) on Oct. 7, 1949.
Because the city of Berlin was located entirely within the Soviet zone of occupation, West Berlin became an island within Communist East Germany. The economy in West Germany, as a result of the help provided by its occupying forces, quickly grew. The opposite occurred in East Germany. Valuable assets were shipped back to the Soviet Union and economic recovery was slow and stagnant. With many East Berliners fleeing that situation, a physical barrier between the two sides of Berlin, known as the Berlin Wall (die Berliner Mauer), was built starting in August of 1961. It became an ugly scar on the German landscape and a symbol of division in the country.
An undated photo of a West Berlin couple talking to relatives in an East Berlin apartment house (see upper window open) over the Berlin Wall. Bettmann/Getty Images
In total, at least 171 people were killed attempting to get over, under or around the wall. According to German historian Hans-Hermann Hertle in his work Berlin Wall: Monument of the Cold War, between 1961 and when the wall finally came down in 1989, over 5,000 East Germans successfully managed to cross the border by jumping out of windows of buildings adjacent to the wall or climbing over the barbed wire. Some even attempted to cross in hot air balloons, by ramming through in vehicles at high speeds or by crawling through sewers.
But by 1989, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, was convinced that the Soviet Union needed reform. He instituted disarmament and a winding down of Cold War confrontations in Europe as preconditions to his reforms. Gorbachev was also in favor of a relaxation of censorship of the press and of the central control of economic matters. This new policy of openness had already resulted in contested elections in Poland in May 1989 as well as reforms in Hungary. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Soviet Union was no longer prepared to support hardline Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
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The Evening of the Fall
It was amid that atmosphere of reform that, on the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, Gunter Schabowski, an East German government official, made a surprising announcement at a press conference.
“Permanent relocations,” he said, “can be done through all border checkpoints between the GDR [East Germany] into the FRG [West Germany] or West Berlin.” This news was set out as an incremental change in policy. But, after reporter Riccardo Ehrman asked when the regulations would take effect, Schabowski replied, “As far as I know, it takes effect immediately, without delay.”
An Official of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), Gunter Schabowski gained worldwide fame for accidentally beginning the destruction of the inner German border at a press conference on Nov. 9, 1989 Eric Bouvet—Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Schabowski’s press conference was the lead story on West Germany’s two main news programs that night, at 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm, with the takeaway being that the Wall, while it still stood, was no longer the firm dividing line it had long been. Since the late 1950s, the two stations broadcast to nearly all of East Germany, and the programs appeared there as well. That night, anchorman Hanns Joachim Friedrichs proclaimed, “This 9 November is a historic day. The GDR has announced that, starting immediately, its borders are open to everyone. The gates in the Wall stand open wide.”
This was all the East German populace needed to hear. Citizens flocked to the border en masse sometime around 9:00 pm and found that, after initial confusion, the border guards were indeed letting people cross. This was a crucial flashpoint in the history between the two sides, as the guards could have easily fired on the crowd. However, according to historian Mary Elise Sarotte in her book The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall, no one among the East German authorities wanted to take the personal authority of issuing orders leading to the use of lethal force.