The Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate as viewed from West Berlin, November 1989
Stringer / Reuters

Thirty years ago this month, the opening of the Berlin Wall ushered in the last great diplomatic struggle of the Cold War. As cheering crowds danced atop what was left of the Iron Curtain, the fate of Germany hung in the balance. In retrospect, it is easy to see that triumphal moment as part of an inevitable march toward German reunification. At the time, however, the future felt anything but certain. 

Germany was the most important strategic prize in Europe. Debates over its reunification and geopolitical alignment had nearly sparked a war on several occasions in the 1950s and 1960s.

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