We all know the story of the fall of the Berlin Wall... it's taught in textbooks, there are movies, you can read the collective take on it on Wikipedia (there's a certain irony to a collective view of the fall of communism, no?). Still, there may be one mystery left. The Wall Street Journal reports this morning on the rest of the story. Before the throngs overwhelmed the borders and tore down the concrete, a spokesperson for the East German Politburo bumbled a news conference to announce a more liberal travel policy, and according to the WSJ "inadvertently opened the Berlin Wall.
Pressed on the meaning of the new travel policy — When did it come into force? Did it apply to West Berlin? Did people need a passport? — the flustered apparatchik rustled his papers and gave confusing answers that led the news media to believe the border was open, with immediate effect.
The result, once East Berliners had seen that night's news on West German television, was chaos at border crossings across the city.
Now, a fight is growing over who asked the key questions that flustered the apparatchik.
Riccardo Ehrman, a veteran Italian foreign correspondent, and Peter Brinkmann, a combative German tabloid reporter, both claim they asked the crucial questions.
And here's where the story gets really interesting. According to the WSJ timeline, neither reporter may have asked the most important question. As things heated up at the news conference, they describe hearing a third reporter - unidentified - press the official on the details of the new order, "When does that go into effect?" The paper tells us that man has never been identified.
Read the full story here.