Less than two years after President Ronald Reagan implored Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” the Berlin Wall was open for East Germans to travel freely to the West.
This Page 1 of the Nov. 10, 1989, Arkansas Gazette was mostly dedicated to the historic announcement. A photo showed jubilant East Germans clambering through a crossing point, and an East Berliner summed up the opening with one word: “Joy.”
The news was so immense that a four-page special report was created. Arkansans with connections to Germany were interviewed for four articles on 5A. A professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Hans Baer, described what he learned of East Berlin while teaching American studies in a university in 1988. He said dissent was common among citizens and told a popular joke that summed up their frustration. Reagan, Gorbachev and East German leader Erich Honecker take turns answering a red phone, and later they receive bills. The call was from hell. Reagan and Gorbachev are charged long-distance rates while Honecker only pays for a local call.
Another article tells of East Germans trying to cross to the West, a woman saying “let us have a beer over there. We’ll come back.” After many bureaucratic holdups, the crowd spilled into the West.
A photo of the front page of a 1961 Arkansas Gazette reporting the construction of the wall accompanied the stories on Page 5A. On 6A, a news analysis with Gannett, which owned the Gazette, declared the Cold War over. The writer, John Omicinski, called the wall “the cold cement face of the socialist dictatorships.”
Although its destruction began the night of Nov. 9, 1989, known as the day the wall fell, parts of the wall still stand in Germany. Part of the wall known as the East Side Gallery is “the longest open-air gallery in the world,” Berlin’s tourism website boasts.
Berliners drubbed the wall with hammers that night, the Gazette reported. They were breaking off pieces of the barrier as keepsakes. Today, eBay lists relics of the wall at various prices, including some with certificates of authenticity.
Although the Cold War was at least thawing, there was still tension between nuclear superpowers the U.S. and U.S.S.R. A front page story reported an allegation from U.S. Air Force members that Soviet military ships had fired lasers at them, damaging the eyesight of a crewmember.
Also on the front page, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway broke Razorback fans’ hearts by choosing Memphis over the University of Arkansas. He went on to a prolific NBA career and now coaches the Memphis Tigers.
The four-page special report can be read here: arkansasonline.com/200/1989bonus.
— Morgan Acuff
You can download a PDF by clicking the image, or by clicking here.