Germany Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Fall Of Berlin Wall

Germany is celebrating on Monday the 20th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former German foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher met in Berlin on Sunday, a
germany celebrates 20th anniversary of fall of...
PTI November 09, 2009 9:51 IST

Germany is celebrating on Monday the 20th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former German foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher met in Berlin on Sunday, a day before the 20th anniversary.

Genscher is credited with helping to secure Germany's reunification through tireless and skilful diplomacy.  The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, ending almost 30 years of Cold War division.

Gorbachev was the president of the Soviet Union at the time and also played a key role in the historic events leading up to the fall of the barrier.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev are expected to be on hand on Monday for the formal commemorations of the wall's opening.

Earlier, Hillary Clinton urged Europeans and Americans on Sunday to see the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall as a call to action against new global threats.

On the eve of celebrations, Clinton said the hard work that went into ending the Cold War must be channelled to meet fresh challenges, including the fights against extremism and climate change.

Clinton said that Monday's commemoration of 9 November 1989 must look forward and not back.  She was speaking at The Atlantic Council event after receiving a 'Freedom award' presented by former US  Secretary of State and member of the Atlantic Council International Advisory Board, Henry Kissinger.

"We must renew the transatlantic alliance as a corner stone of a global architecture of cooperation," she told a group of US and European dignitaries while accepting a Freedom Award on behalf of the American people from The Atlantic Council, a group that promotes trans-Atlantic ties.

Clinton praised US-European collaboration on ending the world financial crisis as well as steps to cooperate on global warming.  She also hailed NATO security operations, from Afghanistan to fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia.  But she said the spirit of the Berlin Wall's destruction, the symbolic end to the Cold War, had to be reinforced.

"We need to form an even stronger partnership to bring down the walls of the 21st century and to confront those who hide behind them," she said.  German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, said that it was "the people's love of freedom, of millions of citizens that had to live unfreely," that brought the wall down. 

Clinton will lead the US delegation to Monday's ceremonies in Berlin.

With concerts and memorials on Monday, Germans are celebrating  the day the Berlin Wall came crashing down 20 years ago.

On that cold night, they danced atop the wall, arms raised in victory, hands clasped in friendship and giddy hope. Years of separation and anxiety melted into the unbelievable reality of freedom and a future without border guards, secret police, informers and rigid communist control.

Germans are celebrating with concerts boasting Beethoven and Bon Jovi; a memorial service for the 136 people killed trying to cross over from 1961 to 1989; candle lightings and 1,000 towering plastic foam dominoes to be placed along the wall's route and tipped over.

On Nov. 9, 1989, East Germans came in droves, riding their sputtering Trabants, motorcycles and rickety bicycles. Hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands crossed over the following days.

Stores in West Berlin stayed open late and banks gave out 100 Deutschemarks in "welcome money," then worth about $50, to each East German visitor.

The party lasted four days and by Nov. 12 more than 3 million of East Germany's 16.6 million people had visited, nearly a third of them to West Berlin, the rest through gates opening up along the rest of the fenced, mined frontier that cut their country in two.

Sections of the nearly 155 kilometers (100 miles) of wall were pulled down and knocked over. Tourists chiseled off chunks to keep as souvenirs. Tearful families reunited. Bars gave out free drinks. Strangers kissed and toasted each other with champagne.

Angela Merkel, Germany's first chancellor from the former communist East, recalled the euphoria in an address last week to the U.S. Congress. "Where there was once only a dark wall, a door suddenly opened and we all walked through it: onto the streets, into the churches, across the borders," Merkel said. "Everyone was given the chance to build something new, to make a difference, to venture a new beginning."

The wall the communists built at the height of the Cold War and which stood for 28 years is mostly gone. Some parts still stand, at an outdoor art gallery or as part of an open-air museum. Its route through the city is now streets, shopping centers, apartment houses. The only reminder of it are a series of inlaid bricks that trace its path.

Checkpoint Charlie, the prefab that was long the symbol of the Allied presence and of Cold War tension, has been moved to a museum in western Berlin.

At a ceremony in Berlin Oct. 31, Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor who presided over the opening of the wall, stood side by side with the superpower presidents of the time, George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev.

After the decades of shame that followed the Nazi era, Kohl suggested, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of their country 11 months later gave Germans pride.

"We don't have many reasons in our history to be proud," said Kohl, now 79. But as chancellor, "I have nothing better, nothing to be more proud of, than German reunification." AP

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