It was clear by the end of the 1980s that the East German economy was struggling. Productivity was straggling, environmental conditions were disastrous and public health was failing. It was also clear to the East German leadership in the spring of 1989, that, with Mikhail Gorbachev's "perestroika" gaining ground in the Soviet Union, the country might soon be without its most powerful supporter.
Jan. 19, 1989: Despite signs of system failure, the East German leadership remained stubborn. Government head Erich Honecker declares "the Wall will be there in 50, even 100 years."
Feb. 6, 1989: Chris Gueffroy, 20, is shot in the chest by border guards while attempting to cross the Berlin Wall to freedom. He becomes the last of hundreds of wall victims.
May 2, 1989: Hungary makes the decision to open its borders and soldiers begin dismantling border reinforcements.
May 1989: In his first official visit to West Germany, Mikhail Gorbachev informs German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that the Soviet Union has abandoned the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine, meaning the Soviet Union would no longer back up Eastern Bloc countries with force.
Sept. 11, 1989: Hungary opens up its borders to Austria, an event which leads to an exodus of tens of thousands of East Germans to the West via Hungary. Some sought refuge in West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw.
End of September, 1989: Mass demonstrations against the East German government gain momentum across the country. The so-called "Monday Demonstrations," started in Leipzig, grow throughout October.
Oct. 7, 1989: East Germany celebrates the 40th anniversary of its existence. Gorbachev takes the opportunity to urge Honecker to introduce reforms by saying, "he who reacts too late will be punished by life." Honecker ignores him.
Oct. 18, 1989: Erich Honecker is forced to resign from his post by the East German Politburo. Egon Krenz is named to replace him.
Nov. 4, 1989: A mass demonstration of over half a million protesters takes place on Berlin's Alexanderplatz. The East German army does nothing to stop it.
Nov. 9, 1989: East Berlin district head Guenther Shabovski calls an evening press conference to announce new travel regulations as part of the East German government's attempt to pacify growing protests. Reading from a prepared statement in front of television cameras and gathered journalists, Shabovski announces that private persons would be able to travel abroad without a complicated and lengthy application procedure. A journalist asks when the new regulation would take effect. Shabovski, not sure how to respond, answers "uhhh, right away." Thousands begin rushing to Berlin border crossings to be met by confused border guards who let them through. The party begins.