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Jäger in October of 2014, talking about his role at the Berlin Wall

Harald Jäger (born 27 April 1943) is a former East German Stasi lieutenant colonel who was in charge of the passport control unit. He is best known for disobeying orders and opening up the Bornholmer Straße border crossing on 9 November 1989, opening up the Berlin Wall.

Biography

Early life and education

Jäger grew up in Bautzen and was educated in the manufacture of stoves. In 1961, he volunteered with the border police (who later became troops of the Nationale Volksarmee). Three years later, he entered service with the Stasi.

Between 1976 and 1979, he attended the University of the Ministry of State Security in Potsdam.[1] His final thesis to graduate before attaining the rank of Major in 1981 was entitled "The Education of specialists forces, security and counter-terrorism in the border customs offices of the Customs Administration of the GDR as a prerequisite for targeted and differentiated inclusion of the members of the customs administration of the GDR in the system of counter-terrorism at the border crossing points of the GDR."

Opening of the Wall

Several days before 9 November 1989, Jäger received word that force was not to be used at the wall. On 9 November, he was eating a sandwich in the break room for border crossing guards when Günter Schabowski delivered a speech on the impending passport changes for the nation's citizens. Upon hearing his speech, he almost choked on his sandwich. After calling his superiors and other border crossing officers along the wall, he was told to turn people away from the Bornholmer Straße border crossing, but to allow through those which were yelling the loudest, the understanding that they would never be allowed to return. After realizing that the continued closing of the gate could imperil the lives of those who were in the crowd and his own officers, he gave the order to open the border at 11:30pm.[2][3][4][5]

His claim to be the first to breach the wall was questioned in 2009 when Heinz Schäfer, a former colonel in the East German army, claimed that he had opened his crossing at Waltersdorf in the south of the city a few hours earlier, which would explain the supposed presence of East Berliners in the area before Jäger opened his gate.[6]

Later life

Following the fall of the wall, he was unemployed. In 1997, he was able to save up enough to open a newspaper shop in Berlin with his wife.[2][3] He has since written a book about his experience called The Man Who Opened the Berlin Wall.[4]

References

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