9 November 1989: From the border guards to the border opener – Harald Jager looks back. Part 2


"The man who opened the wall" is the title of a book by Gerhard Haase-Hindenberg about Harald Jager. He was the one who gave the order on the night of November 9, 1989 against 23.30 clock to open the turnpike at the border crossing Bornholmer road. Hunter was in the fall of 1989 as a lieutenant colonel one of the two deputies of the passport control unit (PKE) at the border crossing point (Gust) Bornholmer street in the district Prenzlauer Berg.

His own experiences with the GDR helped to make him act as he told Sputnik. Previously, he had seen in a break in the service rooms the TV broadcast of the press conference by SED Politburo member Gunter Schabowski. In this, the SED official explained shortly before 19 o'clock, the GDR citizens should "immediately" and "immediately" leave the GDR border, on a visit or forever.
"What is he talking about for a mental Dunsschiss?" He had wondered, so hunter. He was immediately clear what Schabowski's statements meant for the GDR citizens: they can immediately go to the West alone with their identity card. He then called the superior department of the MfS, Division VI. There Colonel Rudi Ziegenhorn had answered him: "Because of the nonsense you call?" Then he was asked to observe the situation. Of the historian Hans-Hermann Hertle has reproduced the course of the conversation in his "Chronicle of the Fall of the Wall" (recently reissued with the title "Immediately, without delay").

"There was nothing"

The now 76-year-old added to Sputnik: He had assumed that the PKE head of the border crossing, Lieutenant Colonel Werner Bachmann, had forgotten to give him the rules on the Schabowski proclaimed scheme. "But there was nothing." Before the border crossing, more and more people and cars would have arrived over time. Trams had not moved on, the roads had been blocked.

He described the situation several times to the duty officer in the MfS control center, recalled Jager. But Colonel Ziegenhorn had just said, "I can not help you. I have informed all, even the head of security of the Central Committee, Wolfgang Herger. I can not get anything from them. They do not believe us. "Thereupon Ziegenhorn had to listen to conference call Hunter at a new call attempt in the MfS headquarters. He wanted to show him how disparate the political and military leadership was at the moment.

So could the pass checker Listen, as the acting Minister of State for Security Gerhard Neiber doubted his statements: "Yes, is the hunter able to assess the situation in real terms, or is he just afraid?" Ziegenhorn replied: "If Hunter reports the situation so, is she like that. You can be sure of that. "Then he was taken off the line, Jager recalled. He had previously kept the receiver out, so that the ever louder calls "Open the door!" And "We'll be back!" Can be heard. But his superiors did not get along.

"Do not let her enter again"

"I did not understand the world anymore," he said in retrospect, describing how he felt after the experience. What he got to hear about this is what still scandalizes him today: "I've been standing on the border for 28 years, I've visited schools and queues. And then they tell me I'm mentally unable to portray it correctly or recognize it properly, or simply cowardly. "

He then went out of the service building at the border crossing and before that ran up and down, speechless. Shortly thereafter, Colonel Ziegenhorn had called again and in the military tone, which was otherwise unusual, communicated: "Comrade Jager, you do now the following: The provocative GDR citizens pulls you out of the masses and let you leave for West Berlin and stamped invalidate your passport by putting the passport stamp on the photo. "

In addition, the personal details of those should be included so that they could be prevented from returning via the wanted list. "Do not let her enter again," the manager added.

False messages with consequences

He was glad to be able to do something that command came, he said in conversation. He doubted how that would work in the face of the masses in front of the turnpike who had since arrived there. All this happened around 9 pm on 9 November 1989, about two hours after Schabowski's statements to the TV cameras. This helpless "valve solution" of the MfS responsible persons is described in detail in the literature on the event.

In this way are around 500 East Germans through the regular border crossing to West Berlin, about 200 with the ausburgernden stamp on the picture in the identity card. "That was the reason for ARD and ZDF to say in their TV news: The border is wide open. But that was not true. "But this has ensured even more inflow into the Bornholmer road and always louder calls of the waiting. But West Berliners have increasingly come to the other side to look at what's going on.

The renewed reference to Colonel Ziegenhorn on the situation led only to the announcement: "I have told you what you should do." His comrades and subordinates had then told him: "Harald, if nothing comes from above, then you have something At the point he already knew what he had to do, says Jager to Sputnik. But he had again asked his colleagues, what he should do. "I wanted to be supportive of my people," he explained.

"Nobody wanted to shoot"

He also asked the others to let him shoot. But that would have scared rejected. Jager emphasized that it had never been a serious alternative that night 30 years ago to use firearms against those who only wanted to do what Schabowski had allowed them on TV.

This was also expressly prohibited after the death of Chris Gueffroy at the border in February 1989, by order of SED chief Erich Honecker as chairman of the National Defense Council of the GDR from April of the year. The inspectors and border guards in the Bornholmer road would not have felt threatened by those who wanted to cross the border.

Jager remembered that a short time later, a first couple wanted to come back home to East Berlin. But the man had the stamp on his ID card image and was thus according to the instruction as expatriated. Therefore, only his wife could have entered again, where the stamp was not placed so.

"I made myself punishable"

Understandably, the man did not let himself be sent back from the post on the front line. "It became clear to me what we actually did there," said the responsible passport inspector. He then let the two in, contrary to the instructions. Then he had repealed the initial order and instructed the post on the front line to let in all GDR citizens again.
Jager, who was also a graduate lawyer, was then already clear: With the arranged "valve solution" is violated against all GDR laws. Only one court was allowed to deny citizenship of citizens of the GDR and to expel them, not a single employee of a border crossing. I have that too Leaving for the West counted. "I made myself punishable strictly speaking", he estimated retrospectively. "There was no command state that permitted this. I should not have executed the order at all. I could have denied that from the start. "
That was the moment he had decided for himself: "Now you do what you think is right." He then went to the post at the turnpike on Bornholmer Strasse and ordered him to open the turnpike and stop the controls. This happened half an hour before midnight on November 9, 30 years ago, and has since then been considered the time of the wall's opening.

"There was no joy"

"Then a world collapsed completely for me," he described what he felt when he saw the GDR citizens pouring into the western part of Berlin. He had the feeling: "They all leave you now. The East German citizen is leaving us now and you are alone. "On the TV images of the night, the others who served with him at the border crossing were to see that they were similar.

"There was no joy when we saw that, as the cheering over there," he described the feelings at that time. It had taken a while during the night before he realized what was happening. He admitted, "I just cried in the situation. That's what happened to me. "But when he went to the service barracks, there was already a captain in the room – weeping in the face of what had happened. "I could not do that."

Then he wanted to drink a coffee and met his deputy colleague GOrlitz, who revealed to him his previously mentioned premonition of the end of the GDR. In the time after midnight, the PKE leader Werner Bachmann had arrived, after he was at a consultation in the MfS. It was actually about the travel regulation promulgated by Schabowski and how it should be implemented. His boss only said to him, "Whether that was necessary, what you have done here."

"Do not pee at the branch …"

Jager added: "Even he did not understand it, or did not want to admit it. He still saw how the masses moved far after midnight in the direction of West Berlin. "Bachmann was still in retrospect as a" concrete head "shown. At each subsequent change proposed at the border crossing and the procedures there, the PKE chief said to him: "Do not sag 'on the branch on which you sit. It will be completely different again. "This attitude his supervisor had shown a while – but it was not back to the time before November 9, 1989.

Actually, the hastily proclaimed travel regulation of the GDR government from 10 November 1989, 4 clock in the morning, apply. Even then, all that would have been uncontrollable, hunter agrees estimates of other former border officers to. Any changes in the border regime that he experienced during his 28 years of service would have taken weeks of preparation before they could be implemented. But the technical preparations for the extensive passport control would have taken much more time than was provided for.

"The GDR citizens would not have gone to work on Friday, November 10," he is sure if they had gone to the border as the night before to the People's Police district offices to get the travel permit pick up. That was actually intended as a procedure and would at least have distributed the onslaught more.

"It's good, my boy"

Even the necessary passports could not have been produced so quickly in the appropriate number – because the GDR did not have the required document paper in sufficient quantities, said Jager. "The GDR citizen would have waited weeks for his passport," he described the potential consequence. "We would have fallen from the rain the next day."

Colonel Ziegenhorn had said to him when he announced that he would open at 11.30pm and stop all controls: "Alright, my boy." When Hunter heard that, he just wondered. Years later, he had realized what he meant, he recalled: "No one could have opened the border, not one, neither Krenz nor Herger as head of security or ZK Minister of Defense Heinz Kessler. Not even Gorbachev could have opened the GDR border. "

The reason: "The Warsaw Treaty still worked. All member states had to give their consent to the opening of the border. If you open the border with West Germany and West Berlin, the Warsaw Treaty towards the West opens with it – that's like a capitulation. "

"I should be the scapegoat"

Huntsman is clear: "Nobody should have given the order or gave it to anyone. I think goat horn said, 'Have you finally realized what you should do?' That meant: Only as I was could do it that night, unintentionally open the line. Since no one was guilty of the leadership. "With that, Hunter would have become a scapegoat when in the following days the development would have been turned back once again. This was at least discussed, even in the SED leadership.

"That should be me too," the border opener is sure. The historian Hertle had told him in the 1990s that already on 14 November 1989, the GDR military prosecutor's office investigation "against unknown" had taken because of the opening of the border on the Bornholmer road. At that time, it was not officially known that Hunter had given the order.

Book author Haase-Hindenberg had later told him: "Those you have fought as an officer of the state security, the civil rights activists have saved your ass at the round table." Due to the further development in the GDR, it was no longer a case against him came.

Part 3 of the review by Harald Jager will be released on Sunday. It tells us what the border-opening border guards experienced in the years to come and how he sees events today.

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