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How a blunder finished off the Wal

The intention was to announce the changes overnight and phase in the new rules the next morning. Instead one of the Politburo members, Guenter Schabowski, blurted out the plans during a televised press conference – and compounded his error by adding the new rules would come into force “immediately”.

Live press conferences were a novelty in communist days, and Mr Schabowski was becoming something of a celebrity through his appearances. Mr Modrow is still scathing about Mr Schabowski’s preening in front of the media.

“The order wasn’t to be published until 0400 in the morning. But Mr Schabowski didn’t notice. He went into an international press conference. And he was so arrogant and full of himself. We had no idea this was happening.”

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