The Man Who Opened the Berlin Wall

Krenz had barely been back to East Berlin when East German border guards were instructed to avoid the use of firearms on any account, a drastic change from the "shoot to kill" order that had been existing for many years.

For once in his long career, Jaeger did not know what to do.

The situation outside his command post became nastier by the minute.

People were screaming and shouting. They wanted to be let through the wall that had kept them from the Western world and the situation was escalating dramatically.

He thought it would not be long before people would turn violent against a handful of border guards outside the command post, who were helplessly confronted by thousands of angry East Berliners now.

That's when Jaeger decided, shortly after 11 p.m., to give the order, "Open the gate," making the checkpoint at Bornholmer Strasse the very first one to let a couple thousand East Berliners through into West Berlin.

Most of those people, who had been gathering there for a couple of hours, returned shortly.

For the most part, they just wanted to see what it was like there and if the Politburo was telling the truth, for once, when Politburo members announced that East Germans were free to travel.

Other checkpoints were also opened in the course of the night of Nov. 9, 1989, but the one under Jaeger's command was the first to let many thousand easterners through the gates into the West, most of them just to experience and enjoy their sudden freedom of movement.

The Crowd Made Jaeger Do It

"It wasn't me," Jaeger said. "It was that crowd in front of my checkpoint. The situation was explosive. That made me do it."

Later, after the two Germanys were reunited in 1990, Jaeger was forced to take early retirement.

He and his wife live in a small apartment outside of the former East German capital.

He has since written a book called "The Man Who Opened the Berlin Wall."

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