On November 9, 1989, which was 25 years ago, the Berlin Wall finally fell. Google is commemorating this incredible occasion by creating an emotive video Doodle. When the wall toppled, a country that had been divided for 30 years was finally unified again. In 1990, this was made official when Germany was reunified once again.
What few people know is that the construction of the wall took place overnight. On August 12, 1961, it was put up by East Berlin, which was then controlled by a communist regime, to separate it from West Berlin. Originally, it was a line of barbed wire that followed all the roads. It then became a fence, before finally turning into two fortified walls, that had a no man’s land in between them. On August 13, 1961 people woke up to see that they could no longer see their families, friends and coworkers who were based in the western part of the city. Once completed, the wall stretched across 66 miles. The concrete wall reached 3.6 meters in height. Additionally, there were another 41 miles covered with barbed wires and 300 look-out towers, which were all manned around the clock, were erected. The wall went through the center of the city of Berlin. Additionally, it actually encircled West Berlin itself, as whole of Berlin was completely surrounded by the GDR, which was communist.
Germany became two divided countries in 1949. West Germany was the Federal Republic of Germany, which was under control of the Allied Forces until a government was established. The other half was the GDR, the German Democratic Republic, which was in the East. Berlin is located in the geographical area of the GDR. However, it was shared between the allies, namely, France, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States of America. The wall was erected to stop people from East Germany from leaving and fleeing to the West.
The wall divided more than a piece of land. It separated entire families and social circles. Additionally, those who were trapped on the “wrong” side, which could be either side, often lost their jobs and livelihoods if the businesses they worked for were on the other side of the wall.
The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years. During this time, at least 200 people died in various attempts to cross it. Estimates vary, with some saying it was actually far more. One area, known as the “death strip” was particularly deadly. It was heavily fortified with barbed wire, anti-vehicle trenches, blinding floodlights and beds of nails. Many people lost their lives there.
During the time when the wall existed, the people of East Berlin became more and more frustrated with their lack of freedom and prosperity that would have been available to them had they lived in West Berlin. The communist government of the GDR denied them their freedom of movement and this led to various demands being placed. The people were motivated by revolutions against the Soviet Union that were experienced all over the East Block and, as a result, they demanded that they be given free passage.
On 9 November 1989, protesters became increasingly present and active. The guards became confused and, around 10:45pm, they opened the gates. This happened after Gunter Schabowski, the spokesperson for the Communist Party of East Berlin, announced that “immediate” passage would be allowed. It is believed that he did not mean that exact moment, but this was how guards and protestors alike interpreted his statement. Instantly, parts of the wall were destroyed and torn down, culminating in the official demolition of the wall in the summer of 1990.
The new Google Doodle commemorates all of this. Through its video, it shows the scenes of joys experienced by all Berliners, with West and East greeting each other and their long lost loved ones. The video shows that night in 1989.
Additionally, the Doodle shows where the wall remains today. Pieces of it have been donated to Seoul, London, Madrid, Washington D.C., Kiev, Cape Town and Mountain View, California, which can be seen in the Doodle video. It is an emotive commemoration of an event that so significantly shaped the world today. Interestingly, Mountain View, California is also the location of Google’s company headquarters.
Google has actually commemorated the fall of the Berlin Wall in the past. In 2009, they used an image of the Wall with the word “Google” on it, with the second “g” shown as having toppled over. This time, they have worked together with people who were there and who had personal experiences of living with and without the wall.
I was 7 years old when thousands of East German signature cars arrived in my hometown Hamburg and filled the air with odd smelling blue smoke. I saw strangers hugging strangers, tears in their eyes, their voices tired from singing.
This is a quote by Nils Frahm, who is also responsible for the musical composition that accompanies the Doodle. He stated that he felt the time had arrived to celebrate unity, which has now lasted for 25 years. Berlin itself has joined in with the celebrations as well, sending out 8,000 LED balloons across what used to be the border. Additionally, Google worked together not just with someone who was there and had experienced it, they also sent employees Liat Ben-Rafael and Ryan Germick to experience it themselves by studying a graffiti-ed piece of the wall itself.
This graffitied chunk of concrete, once a literal division, has been transformed into a symbol of unity, a reminder to passersby of the triumph of the collective human spirit. It was moving to see it in person and, appropriately enough, spray-painted on this special slab are the German words ‘Wir lieben dich’ — ‘we love you,’ they said.
The Doodle video ends with a symbol of peace. The CND symbol replaces one of the “O” letters in Google. The Doodle has been incredibly well-received. People still remember the Wall very well, and they still visit the site today. It is a fresh memory, but it is hoped that the Doodle will be a celebration of unity, rather than a commemoration of division.