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A Slip of the Tongue

November 11, 2009

guenter-schabowskiby Peter Foges

In 1990, just months after the dismantling of the wall, I was in Berlin as a producer for a weekly PBS show on money and markets. Waiting in my hotel lobby, I’d just derailed my television story for the chance to interview an East German official about the last days of the DDR government. I’d picked up his book the day before (“The first account by an insider of how the Berlin Wall came down”) and devoured it that night with much help from an interpreter. When Günter Schabowski sauntered into the lobby of our hotel he was unheralded and unrecognized. “Good evening,” he said in perfect English, extending a hand. “I am the man they say brought down the Berlin Wall. But it’s not quite true, I’m afraid. And please don’t mistake me for a hero.”

We warmed him up for twenty minutes while our crew set and lit a corner of the noisy lobby. He turned out to be astute, funny, self-deprecating; a rumpled professorial type, not at all what I expected from a former Communist politico. “We’re here,” I said, “to hear your story. Tell us what happened.” more

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