News / Europe

    Germans Mark 25 Years Since Fall of Berlin Wall

    • Balloons of the art installation "Lichtgrenze 2014" fly away in front of Brandenburg Gate during the central event commemorating the fall of the Wall in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 9, 2014.
    • German Chancellor Angela Merkel places a rose at the Berlin Wall memorial in Bernauer Strasse, during a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Berlin, Germany.
    • Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, center, releases a balloon from the installation "Lichtgrenze" (Border of Light) in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Nov. 9, 2014.
    • A man wipes his eyes as he attends the central event to commemorate the Fall of the Wall at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 9, 2014.
    • German Chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hands with children symbolizing the so-called "wall peckers," people who chipped the wall with hammers, at Berlin Wall anniversary ceremonies in Bernauer Strasse in Berlin, Nov. 9, 2014.
    • A mother and young daughter place roses at the Berlin Wall memorial in Bernauer Strasse, during a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in Berlin, Nov. 9, 2014.
    • German Chancellor Angela Merkel walks along a section of the former Berlin Wall at the memorial in Bernauer Strasse, during a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in Berlin, Nov. 9, 2014.
    • German Chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hands with people prior to a ceremony at the Berlin Wall memorial site at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin, Germany.
    • German Chancellor Angela Merkel (6th R) and dignitaries take part in a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at a memorial in Bernauer Strasse in Berlin, Nov. 9, 2014.
    • People gather along a light installation called Light Border ( Lichtgrenze ) featuring the Berlin Wall during commemorations to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at the Berlin Wall Memorial in the Bernauer Strasse Berlin, Germany.
    • German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks in front of a photograph showing Bernauer Strasse in November 1989 at the exhibition opening during a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at a memorial in Bernauer Strasse Berlin, Germany.
    • German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Mayor of Germany's capital Berlin, Klaus Wowereit walk along remains of the Berlin Wall at the Berlin Wall memorial site at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin, Germany.
    • People walk under the lit balloons installation along the river Spree in Berlin, Nov. 8, 2014.
    VOA News

    Germans are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel led several events Sunday, including the placing of a rose in one of the few remaining sections of the Wall  to commemorate the 138 people killed in Berlin alone as they tried to flee the Soviet-allied state.

    In a speech at the main memorial site for the Wall, Merkel said that "the fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true."

    She called the Wall a "symbol of state abuse cast in concrete" that "took millions of people to the limits of what is tolerable."

    Relevance to other countries

    But Merkel said the fall of the Berlin Wall also holds relevance in the war-torn countries of today, including Ukraine, Syria and Iraq.

    "It showed that we have the power to shape our destiny and make things better. That is the message of the fall of the Wall," she said. "It is directed at us in Germany, but also at others in Europe and the world, especially to people in Ukraine, in Syria, Iraq and other regions where human rights are threatened or violated.

    "It was a victory of freedom over bondage and it's a message of faith for today's, and future, generations that can tear down the walls - the walls of dictators, violence and ideologies," said Merkel, who is now 60 and has led united Germany since 2005.

    Merkel, a young scientist in Communist East Berlin when she got her first taste of freedom on Nov. 9, 1989, said in a speech that the Wall's opening in response to mass popular pressure would be eternally remembered as a triumph of the human spirit.

    Merkel, in an unusually emotional speech, said the lesson of November 9, 1989 was that "we can change things for the better - that is the message of the fall of the Berlin Wall."

    Merkel recalled that November 9 is also the anniversary of Nazi Germany's 1938 anti-Jewish "Kristallnacht" pogroms that marked the start of the Holocaust, "a day of shame and disgrace."

    "How could that date ever become a day of happiness and joy?" she asked.

    Thanks 'glasnost,' 'perestroika'

    Merkel thanked those abroad who paved the way for the historic events, from the Czech and Polish pro-democracy movements to Moscow's "glasnost" and "perestroika" reforms, saying that in 1989 "the Iron Curtain had already been torn."

    "We Germans will never forget that the freedom and democracy movements in central and eastern Europe paved the way for the happiest moment in our recent history," she said.

    Merkel was speaking at the Berlin Wall Memorial, which features a 220-meter (720-foot) section of what was once a 155-kilometer (100-mile) concrete cordon encircling West Berlin.

    "We have every reason to celebrate," said Mayor Klaus Wowereit, whose city government has been rebuilding small segments of the Wall for posterity and tourists after almost all of the original concrete barrier was hastily torn down over two decades ago.

    "We were all happy at the time that it had fallen and (so it) was torn down," Wowereit said.

    However, current and former world leaders warned of continued divisions among major powers that threaten a new Cold War.

    U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement on Saturday saying Russia's actions against Ukraine are a reminder that there is "more work to do" for Europe to be "whole, free and at peace."

    The Berlin Wall divided the German capital and came to define the Cold War, which pitted the United States and its allies against the Soviet Union following World War Two.

    Gorbachev: Brink of 'new Cold War'

    Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Saturday that the world is on the brink of " new Cold War" and that some say it has already begun.

    At an event commemorating the Berlin Wall anniversary, Gorbachev said,  "Bloodshed in Europe and the Middle East against the backdrop of a breakdown in dialogue between major powers is of enormous concern."

    The West and Russia have been mired in tensions over Ukraine for months.

    Built in 1961, the Berlin Wall divided the city for nearly three decades. It separated Communist East Germany from West Germany.

    It began as a brick wall and was then fortified as a heavily guarded 160-kilometer (100-mile), double concrete screen that encircled West Berlin, slicing across streets, between families and through graveyards.

    Nearly 140 people are said to have died trying to cross the wall from communist East Berlin, but victims' groups say the number is closer to 700.

    Wall protests

    Merkel on Sunday praised the courageous citizens who peacefully brought down the Berlin Wall 25 years ago.

    It was November 9, 1989, when East Germany's government ended its restrictions on travel into West Berlin after weeks of public protests that began in the eastern city of Leipzig and spread to East Berlin.

    Jubilant crowds immediately gathered at the wall, climbing it and crossing through the gates, hammering and chiseling away pieces of it and joining in celebration with West Berliners on the other side. Not one shot was fired.

    The opening of the border was a critical moment in the collapse of communism.

    Just two years earlier, then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan had delivered a speech in Berlin in which he challenged Gorbachev to "tear down this wall."

    East and West Germany reunited on October 3, 1990.

    German authorities said the emphasis of the anniversary this year is on celebrating a unified Germany.

    An art project, "Lichtgrenze 2014" (lit. "lightborder 2014") at the Wall Park in Berlin, features 8,000 luminous white balloons meant to illustrate how the Wall cut through the heart of Berlin. The balloons were set free on Sunday evening - symbolically reenacting the Wall's collapse.

    Some material for this report came from Reuters and AFP.

     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: ali from: Berbera, Somaliland.
    November 10, 2014 12:21 AM
    Reunified Germany celebrates 25 years since the Berlin wall fell. They have good reasons to celebrate like thriving economy, NATO membership and stable Government. But out of the 25 years Germany is celebrating, 9 years of that period, Angela Merkel has been in power. Is it not, therefore, safe to say that Merkel has mostly benefited from the fall of the Berlin Wall. Imagine if she were still in East Germany, what would her fate been today. May be in prison or even dead. We share with our German brothers their moments of joy and wish them more prosperity in future. Germany for Germans in particular and for all peoples in general, who wish their dreams to come true.

    by: Regula from: USA
    November 09, 2014 11:18 PM
    How can Angela Merkel still assert that US subversion and intervention in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen in which Germany under her rule participated glibly, is really action toward the better of these countries? She is alone in seeing such miracle effects. The rest of us who look at the situation see destruction, suffering and hopelessness at the intransigence of the west vis a vis so many countries that were in way better shape before that intervention. Sad that the celebration of a breakthrough in history is used to blind people's eyes to the fact that the current interventions of the west in so many countries exist to prevent such a breakthrough - namely the breakthrough against the US world tyranny to which Germany now is hostage itself. Nor did Merkel comment on the wall separating the Palestinians from their own land! If Ukraine is relevant to the Berlin wall and the problems in Syria and Iraq, surely then the Palestinian tragedy of being walled in by Israel would have been singularly relevant.

    by: Dr.Joji Cherian from: India
    November 09, 2014 10:20 PM
    When Merkel mentioned other walls coming down, did she have any where in mind the real obnoxious offensive and most visible wall of separation in the world, the wall in Palestine? No.She would not have talked of walls coming down if some one had reminded of the wall of apartheid in Palestine.

    by: Dr.Joji Cherian from: India
    November 09, 2014 8:03 PM
    The fall of the wall was a monumental event in history.But Ms. Merkel should have been advised to keep the contextual reference in the proper perspective. The fall has no relevance as far as events in Middle East or in Eastern Europe as they are being unraveled now. Ms. Merkel failed to mention three people who facilitated this event.George Bush Sr.,Helmut Khol, and Gorbachove.Especially George Bush.She forgets the fact that Israel and the Jewish lobby was againsnt reunification and Yitzhak Shamir came out openly against it.She should contemplate seriously if this unification would have happened if Clinton, Bush Jr or with the Israeli lobby so powerful,Obama were president at that time.I believe that Bush was punished for this support for reunification and his refusal to extend aid for settlement in occupied territories.Ms Merkals reference to "Kristallnacht" also is certainly irrelevant unwarrented.One last thing: if Merkel were the chancellor in 1989 this reunification would not have happened.

    by: D. Compton from: S.A.
    November 09, 2014 12:07 PM
    really..?? can we really change things for the better...?? have you been to South Africa lately...?? did we change it for the "better"..??
    My country is disintegrating.!!! Corruption, Murder rates and mob violence are comparable disfavorably to Afghanistan and Iraq.

    D. Compton
    In Response

    by: Spy Master from: Canada
    November 09, 2014 9:41 PM
    Please read and try to understand my posting below. You will have the answer you are seeking.
    Here are a few personal adages to help you along.....

    "The most indefensible weapon known to man is the human mind. Those most adept with it's use succeed in battle and ultimately the war".

    A man's intelligence is not measured by how much knowledge he has acquired, it is measured by how wisely he has applied that knowledge".

    "We can not be a nation of "Peacekeepers" if others will not agree to "Keep the Peace".

    "If you do not become a "Defender", you will become a "Victim".


    by: meanbill from: USA
    November 09, 2014 11:24 AM
    [Merkel forgot to mention], that the US and allies didn't bring democracy to Germany and the other Eastern European countries with bombs and guns, [and she fails to mention], that the countries the US and allies are trying to bring democracy to now with bombs and guns, are Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine, with untold violence, destruction, killings and wars that never end?.....

    [Yea, Germany is helping the US and other allies] attempt to bring democracy to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine by bombs and guns, by violence, destruction, killings and wars that never end.... [the legacy of the US and NATO in the 21st century?]..... [how many more countries will Germany help the US bring democracy to with bombs and guns?]..... [is this the way to bring democracy to countries in the 21st century?].... [change the governments you oppose by using bombs and guns to do it?]..... [a never ending cycle of bombs and guns, to change governments, like what terrorists do?]...... REALLY?
    In Response

    by: Hedy
    November 09, 2014 10:55 PM
    meanbill, fools like you can live in peace because wiser and braver men protect you.
    You may believe, that If your homeland pulls out from the rest of the world, you can live out the rest of your weightless life in peace. It is not so. It needs brave men to go to places and stop bad people to take over the democracies little by little.
    Fools like you believe, if you are kind to evil people, you will convince them to see and change the wrongs of their ways - just by your example and unarmed hands extended for a warm and fuzzy hug.
    The world is rude and very rough around the edges. You may live long enough to understand it one day.
    In Response

    by: Spy Master
    November 09, 2014 3:32 PM
    @meanbill.....Bombs and guns?..."You fear the truth, but the truth fears no one."
    "The easy way out is to pretend there is no crisis. That's the way to win elections. That's the way we stumbled into war in the first place---there were too many men in power who preferred to see no threat to freedom because to admit to such a threat implies a willingness to combat it. There's a considerable difference between being high-minded and soft-headed."
    "More than half the world is under dictatorship. Those people do not know what we call 'freedom'. Only sixty generations stretch back from you and me, here, to the dawn of Western history. Two world wars in this century remind us that 'civilized' Europe is the bat of an eye from the Dark Ages. We've sailed a long, stormy course to this small island of freedom. We had to endure the sacrifices of war, risk our lives daily, carry on despite the loss of those we love, and overcome insuperable odds to preserve what we have. Are we now to admit that we can no longer find the means to control the weapons we create to defend ourselves? For free people the future is filled with hazard and challenge. When was that not so?
    "We are still evolving democratic societies. If we want to continue this natural growth, we can't ignore ideological enemies who want to stunt it or destroy it. By working through our own democratic institutions, they can disarm us."
    "It would be a great irony if, having proven to the would-be conquerors of the world that freedom will prevail, we cannot prove it to ourselves."
    "I do not agree with that metaphor of Walter Lippman that the peoples of the West, to stop there hands from shaking, prepare to welcome manacles."

    by: Hedy
    November 09, 2014 10:52 AM
    It is kind of Frau Merkel to acknowledge those of in Central and Eastern Europe who opened new path to freedom for East-Germany too.
    It is just sad, that she didn't even mention the first freedom fighters in Hungary in 1956 who blew the first punch against the Soviet Empire and paid for it with the blood of the fighters - and innocents as well.
    It is just sad, that she didn't even mention the than still communist Hungary that opened the gates for East-Germans to escape to the West, rendering the Berlin Wall meaningless and irrelevant.
    But these are the days we are living in.

    I wish the people of Germany free and happy future on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
    In Response

    by: Jennifer from: Tennessee
    November 09, 2014 9:13 PM
    She may not have mentioned those things directly (I didn't hear the whole speech), but they're there in context.

    by: GEORGE#1 from: MERRIMACK NH
    November 09, 2014 10:43 AM
    "Tear down Mr. Gorbachev . . ." who said that? Just a minute, I forget . . . Oh yes, Pres. Ronald Reagan, now I remember! Apparently few people DO!
    In Response

    by: adrift from: Canada
    November 09, 2014 10:27 PM
    Don't fell bad about it. Reagan forgot it happened hours before he got on TV and made the announcement.
    In Response

    by: Spy Master from: Canada
    November 09, 2014 9:55 PM
    President Ronald Reagan said, "Mister Gorbachev...tear down that wall" !!
    I will always remember those words.

    by: D Chu from: N Battleford
    November 09, 2014 10:27 AM
    Seems a good thing the wall came down
    But have my suspicions and Russia being progressively assertive of it's authority in Eastern Ukraine
    Does that mean it is possible they may do likewise again?
    Anyone with a melon head for brains like Putin you cannot trust
    Why does the rest of the world assume they can trust him?
    In Response

    by: Regula from: USA
    November 09, 2014 11:05 PM
    It is the US who advised Poroshenko to build a wall along the Ukraine/Russia border - after Ukraine and Russia lived side by side peacefully for hundreds of years! The problem doesn't lie with Putin, it lies with the US paranoia that sees hegemony and world government as the only way to avoid default in light of the dwindling dollar reserve in the world. By the same token, the war on Donbas by Kiev was advised by the US, not by Putin or the rebels.

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