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'Julia, the Wall is down!': memory of a fateful day

world Updated: Nov 09, 2009 20:19 IST
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The first Julia Naumann knew about the historic events of November 9, 1989, was a breathless phone call from across the Atlantic.

"Julia, the Wall is down, the Wall is down!" said the voice on the other end of the line, recalled Naumann, then a 20-year-old politics student in West Berlin, now an AFP reporter.

The voice belonged to the American woman who had hosted her during an exchange two years before, and soon the phone was ringing again as news filtered in that November 9 was no ordinary evening.

"Soon afterwards, a friend of mine from Berlin rang and said we should get the car and drive over. I was totally exhilarated."

Crossing the now defunct border, the group drove into East Berlin. "What I remember most is how dark it was. The street lighting was different. There was no advertising. And there were a whole load of people on the street."

Finally, the group ended up at the Brandenburg Gate, where tens of thousands were gathering, scarcely able to take in the momentous events unfolding around them. Here, Naumann's mood changed temporarily.

Seeing hundreds of the feared East German police lined up ahead of her, she thought: "It's a trick. They're going to close the Wall up again and we're going to have to stay here. Stuck in the East."

But as it became clear that the hated barrier had been torn down for good, Naumann threw herself into the party spirit.
"We shouted with the rest of the crowd, 'Down with the Wall!' and so on. We also spoke to the police and taunted them, saying, 'You've lost'."

"They stayed pretty cool. I think they were totally confused."

Naumann said the whole experience was "so emotional. It has influenced my whole life."

She and her friends then hit the bars and an evening that had started with an early night ahead of classes in the morning stretched deep into the early hours.

"And I missed my class the next day," she recalled with a laugh.