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Journalist who prompted the fall of the Berlin Wall dies

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's remember an Italian journalist who is famous for asking a question that shaped history, a question that helped lead to communist Germany opening up the Berlin Wall. Riccardo Ehrman has died at the age of 92.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Back in 1989, as Communist rule was being chipped away all over the Eastern Bloc, demonstrators took to the streets of East Germany in unprecedented numbers to demand reform, and the communist government came under intense pressure to let its citizens travel freely. At a chaotic press conference on November 9, Ehrman pushed the government spokesperson, Gunter Schabowski, on a new set of travel regulations.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICCARDO EHRMAN: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINEZ: In that clip, you can hear Riccardo Ehrman in the background pushing Schabowski on when the new policy comes into effect. The spokesperson responds by saying it comes into effect immediately without delay.

INSKEEP: And both West and East Germans immediately rushed to the Berlin Wall. Within hours, this happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: It's a great day for Berlin and for all German people that the border is finally open...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: There are thousands of people here in front of the wall at the Brandenburg Gate at this hour. The West Berlin police are keeping the crowd away from the wall, but the sense of excitement is undeniable.

(CHEERING)

INSKEEP: In the hours and days that followed, the wall was torn down. Years later, Riccardo Ehrman reflected on that day in an interview with the Spanish-language History Channel.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EHRMAN: (Non-English language spoken).

INSKEEP: My question was surely just a spark, he said, but the response was an earthquake.

MARTINEZ: Riccardo Ehrman worked for the Italian news agency ANSA. He died in Madrid this week at the age of 92. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.