TIMELINE: The rise and fall of the Berlin Wall

Mon Nov 9, 2009 11:56am EST

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(Reuters) - The Berlin Wall was breached 20 years ago on November 9, 1989. Here are some key dates in the history of the Berlin Wall.

- June 15, 1961. As a growing number of East Germans stream into West Berlin amid worsening conditions and fears the border may one day be closed, Communist East German leader Walter Ulbricht declares: "Nobody intends to build a wall." Thousands read between the lines and the exodus accelerates.

- Aug 13, 1961. After midnight, East German troops begin erecting what Ulbricht calls an "anti-fascist protection barrier."

- Aug 15, 1961. Creating an enduring image, East German soldier Conrad Schumann is photographed leaping over a barbed wire section of the divide into the West.

- Aug 19, 1961. Wall claims first life as man falls to his death trying to climb down from his top-floor apartment in East Berlin's Bernauerstrasse to pavement below in West Berlin.

- Aug 24, 1961. Date of what is generally accepted as first killing by border guards after Wall went up. Guenter Litfin, 24, believed shot dead as he swam across the river Spree.

- Aug 17, 1962. Eighteen-year-old Peter Fechter bleeds to death in no man's land after being shot trying to escape. Western cameramen record the scene for nearly an hour before guards take away his body.

- June 26, 1963. U.S. President John Kennedy rides in an open-top limousine through West Berlin. "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner) he declares in a pledge of solidarity.

- March 11, 1985. Mikhail Gorbachev, 54, becomes leader of Soviet Union and embarks on course of cautious reforms.

- June 12, 1987. Near Brandenburg Gate, U.S. President Ronald Reagan demands: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall."

- Jan 1989. Popular protests against East German government become bolder and more widespread, but leader Erich Honecker insists: "The Wall will stand in 50, even 100 years."

- Sept 10, 1989. Hungary breaks ranks with Warsaw Pact and officially opens border with Austria to East Germans, creating first chink in Iron Curtain. Thousands of East German "tourists" go West.

- Oct 7, 1989. East Germany marks 40th anniversary. East Germans hail visiting Gorbachev as liberator with chants of "Gorby! Gorby!."

- Oct 18, 1989. Honecker forced to resign "on health grounds" amid growing protests.

- Nov 4, 1989. Half a million demonstrate for democracy in East Berlin.

- Nov 9, 1989. Honecker's successor Egon Krenz tells party all East Germans can go to the West from following day if they apply for an exit visa. Mix-up over announcement means that, within minutes, East Berliners besiege border guard posts. By midnight hundreds of thousands breach Wall and pour into the West.

(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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