the GDR reopened the temporally closed borders to Eastern Europe.
On 19 August 1989, some 600 East Germans “picnickers”, participants in a celebration of good neighbourly relations on the Austrian-Hungarian border, originally meant for Austrians and Hungarians, pushed through a barbed wire topped wooden gate and made their way into the West and freedom. As it turned out, this was not a one-off “great escape” but the precursor to the greatest flood of East German refugees fleeing their “bastion of socialism on German soil” since 1961 when the Berlin Wall was built. Some three weeks later, the trickle of escapees from the Iron Curtain became a deluge of tens of thousands, who were able to cross legally from Hungary to Austria and eventually to West Germany. Although I missed the picnic I made sure that I would be able to witness and report what happened on the following 11 September. [more]