Harald Jäger

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Jäger in October 2014, talking about his role at the Berlin Wall

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


Early life and education[edit]

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[edit]

According to Harald Jäger's own words the Wall had for himself partially lost its meaning after Hungary had opened its border to Austria in September 1989 and he expected further changes.[2] 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 republic's citizens. On hearing this speech, he almost choked on his sandwich. On the same day Major Manfred Sens had informed the guards as usual to "capture or destroy trespassers" ("Grenzverletzer festzunehmen bzw. zu vernichten).[3] Jäger called his superior Rudi Ziegenhorn and other border crossing officers along the Wall, who told him to turn people away from the Bornholmer Straße border crossing, but allow through the "provocateurs" -- but without telling them that they could never return. After realizing that keeping the gate closed could imperil the lives of people in the crowd and his own officers, he ordered the border open at 11:30 pm.[4][5][6][7]

The claim that he was the first to open 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.[8]

Later life[edit]

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.[4][5] He has since written a book about his experience called The Man Who Opened the Berlin Wall.[6]


  1. ^ "GÜSt meldet dem OLZ". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). 13 August 2007. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  2. ^ Chronik der Mauer, Mauerdurchbruch Bornholmer Straße.
  3. ^ Chronik der Mauer, Mauerdurchbruch Bornholmer Straße.
  4. ^ a b Wroe, David (8 November 2009). "'It was the best and worst night'". Al Jazeera America. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  5. ^ a b Cohen, Roger (10 November 1999). "Haphazardly, Berlin Wall Fell a Decade Ago". New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  6. ^ a b Kucharz, Christel (9 November 2009). "The Man Who Opened the Berlin Wall". Passau: ABC News. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  7. ^ "The Guard Who Opened the Berlin Wall: 'I Gave my People the Order – Raise the Barrier'". Spiegel Online. 9 November 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  8. ^ McElroy, Damien (7 November 2009). "East Germans may have arrived in West Berlin hours before previously thought". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 November 2014.