David Hasselhoff responsible for bringing down Berlin wall with song

Tens of thousands gather to celebrate fall of the Berlin Wall anniversary

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More than three decades ago, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall which divided Germany literally and ideologically came tumbling down, just days after one million people gathered in East Berlin to protest. The fall was, however, caused by a bureaucratic accident after the German Democratic Republic gave the order to loosen the border controls in a bid to quell unrest. One spokesperson, Günter Schabowski, mistakenly told journalists that it was effective immediately which lead to mass gatherings of East Germans at the wall, outnumbering the guards on that monumental day, with the wall consequently falling. But where does the Baywatch star, David Hasselhoff, come into all this?

While the 70-year-old was not physically there, tearing down the wall built in 1961, he was in a metaphorical sense as his hit song “Looking for Freedom” had been at the top of the charts in 1989. 

The song, which was a reworking of Tony Marshall’s German hit from the Seventies, Auf der Strasse Nach Süden, stayed at number one for eight consecutive weeks in Germany with the album it featured on staying at number one for three months.  

The lyrics captured the spirit in the GDR at the time as Hasselhoff sings that “freedom he has none” with the choice then being made to leave the hometown in search of liberty.  

Today, Hasselhoff reminds some children who grew up in East Germany of that time with one fan, Thomas Erdmann, even believing as a child that the American singer was responsible for the wall coming down.

Mr Erdman, who was six years old when the wall tumbled down, told NPR in 2019 how he believed Hasselhoff played a part in bringing it down as a child. He said: “I grew up with the idea that he was responsible for breaking down the wall.” 

The Knight Rider star was asked to perform “Looking for Freedom” on Germany’s Silvester Show for the New Year’s Eve special in 1989.  

Although Hasselhoff agreed, he stipulated that he would only perform on the Berlin Wall, which he later admitted was a ridiculous request. 

However, the Silvester Show agreed and the singer was consequently raised up on a crane, wearing a leather jacket covered in flashing lights, as he belted out the anthem to an estimated half a million people.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/6PRIVXR22zQ

In an interview with On Demand Entertainment in 2016, Hasselhoff said: “My song was called Looking for Freedom and it just happened to be number one that summer. 

“We found out that people in East Germany were actually singing Looking for Freedom before they were free and that to me was really cool. So I went into East Germany and said ‘how do you know me?’”

Hasselhoff said he had asked whether they knew him from Knight Rider, but instead they told him: “You’re the man who sings of freedom”. 

He continued: “There was a responsibility that came there and I really got into that whole movement; I still am. They wanted to tear down the last piece of the wall and I made them keep it up.”

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In 2013, the former Britain’s Got Talent judge travelled to Berlin to stop developers from moving part of the wall, now covered in murals, to make way for housing development. He was greeted by thousands of Germans, some of whom held up signs which read “We love you, thank you for Mauerfall [the fall of the wall]”.    

Hasselhoff added: “I went over and made a personal appearance, just by chance, and they kept it up because it’s a symbol of what happened to those people.”  

It is estimated that between 1961 and 1989, 140 people were killed or died while trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Its falling signified for many the beginning of the end of the “Iron Curtain”, dividing East and West Europe. 

In 2007, the David Hasselhoff Museum was opened in the German capital, which includes a signed mural of The Hoff, commemorating the actor’s connection with the once-divided city.

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