German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Saturday by declaring that its collapse proves that barriers to freedom cannot stand.
“The Berlin Wall, ladies and gentlemen, is history, and it teaches us: No wall that keeps people out and restricts freedom is so high or so wide that it can’t be broken down,” she said at a memorial service in a small chapel near where the wall once stood.
“We want to ensure that no wall will separate people ever again. It proves that no wall is so high and so strong that we could not break it.”
Leaders of Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic attended the ceremony at Bernauer Strasse – where one of the last parts of the Berlin Wall remains – before placing roses in openings in the once-formidable barrier that divided the city for 28 years.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella said the collapse of the wall opened a new road of history for the entire continent and the world.
“A Europe without walls of division and without hatred is a great opportunity for the citizens to be masters of their own destiny,” he said, according to Deutsche Welle.
Germany marked the wall’s demise with an event that would have been impossible in the once-divided city: a concert at the Brandenburg Gate.
Elsewhere in the German capital, soccer fans tore down a symbolic “Berlin Wall” erected across the middle of the field at Hertha Berlin’s Olympiastadion before a game against visiting Leipzig.
Berliners from either side of the once-divided city were able to stroll up to the iconic 18th-century monument to hear the Staatskapelle Orchestra perform Beethoven’s Fifth symphony under musical director Daniel Barenboim.
For almost 28 years after the wall went up to seal off East Germany from the West, the historic gate, and symbol of Berlin, remained tantalizing out of reach for West Berliners – a daily reminder of Soviet domination of the region after World War II.
The break in the barricade came on the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, as East German politicians, pressured by events sweeping Eastern Europe, could no longer hold back the tide in the divided city. Delirious Berliners from East and West cried tears of joy as they swarmed over and through the wall, hugging one another.
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SOURCE: USA Today – Doug Stanglin / Associated Press