BERLIN - Germany celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with a spectacular party and light installation in the city.
Christian Bergman is carrying his own little piece of history; a piece of the Berlin Wall that he hacked away with a hammer and chisel 25 years ago.
A grainy photo caught him in the act. Bergman grew up in East Berlin under communism.
“When the wall came down I was 18, and it was really incredible because I had started enjoying my own adult life and I never thought I could leave my own country within my life. And suddenly the wall dropped and the world was open,” recalled Bergman.
That freedom also led to Bergman meeting his future wife - an American. Together with his parents, the family manned one of the 8,000 illuminated balloons Sunday night that weaved through the city along the path of the former wall.
Attached to the balloons were messages from participants. The Bergmans' said simply, "Thanks be to God."
Werner Wentt and his wife Ingeborgven also were in charge of a balloon.
“There were so many differences of opinion, and despite that we succeeded without bullets, without using violence. We did it so that the wall fell. That was the greatest,” said Wentt.
The balloons were released into the night sky, symbolizing the fall of the wall a quarter century ago - the day East Germans regained their freedom - the day communism began to crumble.
“It was an amazingly good resemblance of the peaceful coming off (fall) of the wall. The balloons were rising silently and people were celebrating and screaming with joy,” said Wentt.
It was also the cue for a huge party at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.
There were more solemn events earlier in the day to remember the victims of the communist regime. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in the East, said the message will resonate across the world.
“The fall of the Wall showed us that dreams can become reality. Nothing has to stay as it is, no matter how high the barricades are. We want to share this experience with our partners throughout the world,” said Merkel.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who was instrumental in ending the Cold War, joined the ceremonies. In 1987, he was famously given this message by then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
On Sunday, Gorbachev offered a stark warning to the world: “The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some people are even saying that it's already begun.”
Such fears were put aside for the night as Berliners - and tens of thousands of visitors - celebrated their unity and their freedom.