Timeline November 1989

In July 1989, hundreds of East Germans sought refuge at the West German embassy in Hungary. Hungary allowed these refugees to depart for West Germany. In October, train loads of East German refugees from West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw were permitted to pass through East Germany to the West. Starting in Leipzig, prodemocracy demonstrations spread throughout East Germany, and East German leader, Erich Honecker, resigned. The Berlin Wall (see August 1961) was torn down on November 9, 1989.

Many Communist governments in Eastern Europe collapsed in 1989 and 1990. In December 1989, prodemocracy demonstrations in Czechoslovakia caused Communist Party leaders to resign, Former dissident Vaclav Havel became President. At the same time, Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausecu was overthrown, and on December 25,1989 he was executed by the new government. The Romanian Communist Party dissolved in 1990. In Poland, the communist party dissolved in 1990, and Solidarity (a Polish trade union organization formed in 1980) Leader Lech Walesa became President. In 1990, Hungary held its first free elections since 1945.

DOE changed its focus to one of environmental cleanup, openness to public input, and overall accountability by forming the Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management (now called the Office of Environmental Management). The office consolidated cleanup activities that had been spread throughout DOE. The Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management cleans up environmental contamination, develops restoration technologies, manages DOE waste safely, and works to communicate openly and honestly with the public.