Some 200 East Germans surprise Hungarian border guards and rush through a gate into Moerbisch, Austria, Saturday, August 19, 1989. The gate was opened as part of the joint Austro-Hungarian Pan-European Union picknick, marking the end of the Iron Curtain. The East Germans had heard of the event and used it for their flight to the West.

Some 200 East Germans surprise Hungarian border guards and rush through a gate into Moerbisch, Austria, Saturday, August 19, 1989.

The gate was opened as part of the joint Austro-Hungarian Pan-European Union picknick, marking the end of the Iron Curtain. The East Germans had heard of the event and used it for their flight to the West.

In spite of the removal of the barbed wire, the border was still controlled by Hungarian guards as travel restrictions still applied to East Germans and other Communist bloc citizens.

On August 19, the Paneuropa movement organized a “picnic” right on the border between Sopron and St. Margarethen.

Hundreds of East Germans seized the opportunity and crossed the border. Hungarian guards refrained from using arms to stop them. On September 10, Foreign Minister Horn announced that the border would be officially opened for Easter German citizens the next morning.

Over 50,000 East Germans poured out over the next few weeks. This first breach of the Iron Curtain in Hungary contributed to the destabilization of the German Democratic Republic. Along with the pressure from the civic protest movement, the East German regime lost its nerve and opened the Berlin Wall on November 9 – the symbolic  end of the Cold War.

In this document, an Austrian Foreign Ministry official briefs Foreign Minister Mock about the flood of “citizens of the German Democratic Republic” that started to cross the Austrian border from Hungary beginning at midnight on September 11. A total of 10,000 crossed the border that day by foot, by car and by busses provided by the Austrian Red Cross. By September 15, 13,674 GDR citizens  had crossed. The Austrian Red Cross is commended for its role  of providing food, maps and 700 Austrian Schillings for transit costs  for every GDR-émigré. 

In this document, an Austrian Foreign Ministry official briefs Foreign Minister Mock about the flood of “citizens of the German Democratic Republic” that started to cross the Austrian border from Hungary beginning at midnight on September 11.

A total of 10,000 crossed the border that day by foot, by car and by busses provided by the Austrian Red Cross. By September 15, 13,674 GDR citizens  had crossed. The Austrian Red Cross is commended for its role  of providing food, maps and 700 Austrian Schillings for transit costs  for every GDR-émigré. 

A group East Germans take flight across the Austrian border on August 22 at the border crossing in Klingenbach (Burgenland); an Austrian customs official tells them that they are safe on Austrian territory and will not be sent back.

A group East Germans take flight across the Austrian border on August 22 at the border crossing in Klingenbach (Burgenland); an Austrian customs official tells them that they are safe on Austrian territory and will not be sent back.

PHOTO CREDITS: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP AP Photo/wv/str/votava; APA-FOTO : KURT KEINRATH; Austrian Ministry of European and International Affairs.