Though orders had been been given, they were botched by East German propaganda minister Günter Schabowski, who mistakenly announced in a press conference that restrictions on border crossings would be lifted immediately. In fact, restrictions were to be lifted the next day.
Tens of thousands of East Berliners heard Schabowski’s statement live on East German television and flooded the checkpoints in the Wall demanding entry into West Berlin. The surprised and overwhelmed border guards made many hectic telephone calls with their superiors, but it became clear that there was no-one within the East German authorities who would dare to take personal responsibility for issuing orders to use lethal force, so there was no way for the vastly outnumbered soldiers to hold back the huge crowd of East German citizens. In face of the escalating crowd the guards finally yielded, opening the checkpoints and allowing people through with little or no identity checks. The ecstatic East Berliners were soon greeted by West Berliners on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. November 9 is thus considered the date the Wall fell. In the days and weeks that followed people came to the wall with sledgehammers in order to chip off souvenirs, demolishing lengthy parts of it in the process. These people were nicknamed “Mauerspechte” (wall woodpeckers).