Gunter Schabowski, man who toppled the Berlin Wall, dies at 86

Gunter Schabowski, a German politician who accidentally led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, has passed away at the age of 86.

During a press conference in 1989, Schabowski, then a spokesperson for the East German government, said that both Germanies planned to cancel the ban on East Berliners crossing to West Berlin.

The press conference came several months after large numbers of East Germans began entering Hungary in order to ultimately reach western Europe and after anti-Communist protests spread around eastern Europe.

In light of these occurrences, a reporter asked Shabowski when his government would allow people to enter eastern Europe. "Immediately, without delay," he answered, preempting the official statement that was scheduled for the following morning.

Within a few hours, tens of thousands of East Germans came to the Berlin Wall in the expectation of crossing westward. The masses ultimately tore down the wall and crossed over.

In 1997 Shabowski was sentenced to three years imprisonment for being part of the government that ordered police to fire at protesters trying to enter West Germany. He was pardoned a year later. In 2009 he wrote his autobiography, in which he admitted that East German authorities were "thoroughly corrupt."


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