On 2 May 1989, the first visible cracks in the Iron Curtain appeared when Hungary began dismantling its 150 mile long border fence with Austria. The relatively open border with the West allowed hundreds of East Germans on holiday in Hungary to escape to Austria and then travel safely to West Germany.
The open border infuriated many Soviet Bloc governments who feared a return to a pre-Berlin Wall day when thousands of East Germans fled daily to West Berlin. Although worried, the Soviet Union took no overt actions against Hungary, taking a hands-off approach.
The most famous crossing came on 19 August, when during a "friendship picnic" between Austrians and Hungarians over 900 East Germans rushed the border and escaped into Austria.
As of December 2014[update] Hungary and Austria are part of the Schengen Agreement, which allows border crossing without identity check.
- Stokes, G: "The Walls Came Tumbling Down", page 131. Oxford University Press, 1993
- Buckley, W: National Review
- 2 May: Hungary dismantles border, BBC
- 10 Sept: East Germans go West, BBC
- Les 20 ans d'un pique-nique qui a fait basculer l'histoire, Le Monde (French)
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