• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Berlin celebrates 25 years since fall of Wall

AFP/The Local · 9 Nov 2014, 20:14

Published: 09 Nov 2014 17:42 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Nov 2014 20:14 GMT+01:00

The flight of the glowing white orbs through the heart of Berlin marked the climax of a huge open-air party at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of German unity, which drew an estimated one million guests to the city.
   
A quarter-century after the breach of Europe's Cold War division, artists had tethered nearly 7,000 balloons along a 15-kilometre (nine-mile) stretch of the despised concrete barrier's former 155-kilometre path, making it visible once again.
   
As the balloons were released and floated to the heavens, the Berlin State Orchestra, under the baton of Daniel Barenboim, played Beethoven's "Ode to Joy".
   
Earlier, British singer Peter Gabriel sang a stripped-down version of David Bowie's Wall anthem "Heroes", sharing the stage with rock bands from east and west Germany and former dissidents. 
 
Fireworks followed the release of the balloons. 
   

Merkel, 60, who grew up in communist East Germany, said earlier at a memorial for those killed trying to escape the repressive regime that the Wall was a "symbol of state abuse cast in concrete" that "broke" many people.
   
In an unusually emotional speech, Merkel said: "We can change things for the better - that is the message of the fall of the Berlin Wall."
  
This is true for Germany and "for the people in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and in many, many other regions of the world where liberty and human rights are threatened or being trampled," she said.

'Dreams can come true'
 
Merkel said the events inspired hope that the world can tear down "walls of dictatorship, violence, ideology and hostility".
   
"Too good to be true? A daydream that will burst like a bubble? No, the fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true."
   
The celebrations started on a sombre note with an ecumenical service and ceremony for the at least 389 victims of the border, many of whom were shot or blown up by mines as they tried to flee the East.
   
A couple from the former West Berlin, Gunnar and Uschi Schultz, who visited the memorial early Sunday, recalled how they spent the entire historic night in 1989 at the Brandenburg Gate, which was a centrepiece of the tense frontier for 28 years.
   
"It was wonderful, obviously, wonderful, but at the same time, strange," said medical researcher Uschi, 50, about the night when citizens from both sides found the courage to cross into the heavily guarded no-man's land.
   
"The police were very hesitant. It's a miracle that no shot was fired."
   
Frank Marschner, a 56-year-old forester from the east German town of Neustadt, said November 9th, 1989 marked the beginning of a new chapter in his life.
   
"The freedom to travel is the freedom we've enjoyed the most," he said, joined by his wife Pia, 54.
   
"It started with a jaunt to West Berlin and it's since taken us to Canada, Greece, Cape Verde - all over the world. Places we could never even dream of in the GDR," he added, using the acronym for communist East Germany.

People's celebration

Unlike for the 20th anniversary, when foreign heads of state and government flocked to Berlin, the festivities this year were mainly a people's celebration in a city that has blossomed into an international cultural hub and major tourist destination.
   
The only foreign dignitaries were veterans of the era, chiefly the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, 83, whose "glasnost" and "perestroika" reforms kicked off the series of historic events.
   
Gorbachev, who remains highly popular in Germany, warned at a Wall commemoration on Saturday that the world was on the "brink of a new Cold War", amid East-West tensions over Ukraine.
   
Also at the festivities were Polish freedom icon Lech Walesa, 71, Hungarian ex-premier Miklos Nemeth, 66, and German President Joachim Gauck, 74, a former Christian pastor and rights activist in the East.
   
Pope Francis also honoured the events of 25 years ago, noting that people were "killed for their beliefs or religion".
   
Story continues below…
"We need bridges, not walls," he said from the Vatican.
   
East Germany built the Wall, which it called an "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart", in August 1961 to halt a mass exodus of its citizens to the West.
   
On November 9th, 1989, East German border guards, overwhelmed by large crowds after months of mounting protests against the regime, threw open the gates to West Berlin, allowing free passage for the first time since it was built.
   
Germany would reunite within the year, on October 3rd, 1990.
 
Our live blog below, followed the celebrations. 
 

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
File photo: DPA

When a man swimming naked in a Bavarian lake felt a strange pain in his nether regions, he looked up to see a fisherman on the shore. "Don’t pull!" he shouted.

Study finds rival Rhineland beers 'actually taste the same'
Left: Altbier. Right: Kölsch. Or can you even tell? Photos: DPA.

Cologne and Düsseldorf have a long established rivalry, not least over who has the better home brew. So the results of a new study might be more than they can swallow.

Eastern Europe pushes Germany for joint EU army
Angela Merkel (l), Beata Szydlo and Victor Orban. Photo: DPA

Eastern EU countries on Friday pushed for the bloc to create a joint army as they met with Germany for talks on sketching Europe's post-Brexit future.

Merkel’s party mate wants to get rid of all Karl Marx streets
Karl Marx and one of the roadways in Berlin named for him. Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Nicor

Hundreds of streets are named after the founder of communism, but this conservative politician wants to give Marx the boot.

State elections
6 reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Photo: DPA

With state elections around the corner, The Local looks at the poor side of Germany's "poor but sexy" capital city.

Upstarts RB Leipzig plan to go right to top of Bundesliga
RB Leipzig players celebrate scoring against Dynamo Dresden. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig make their Bundesliga debut on Sunday, but the East German outfit, sponsored by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull, are already far from popular in Germany's top-flight.

Poland criticizes Germany’s 'self-serving' foreign policy
Witold Waszczykowski. Photo: DPA

The Polish foreign minister has said that Germany all too often follows its own interests at the expense of its partners, as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to visit Warsaw.

Vast majority of Germans in favour of burqa ban: poll
Women wearing niqab veils in Saudi Arabia. Photo: DPA.

A survey found that the vast majority of respondents were in favour of Germany passing a ban on the full-body veil sometimes worn by Muslim women.

Czech police detain driver for harassing Merkel's motorcade
Angela Merkel. File photo: DPA

Czech police arrested a man on Thursday for attempting to drive into the motorcade of visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Prague, they said.

Teacher convicted for holding kids back after class
Photo: DPA

A music teacher from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has been found guilty of "holding people against their will" after he made some naughty stay kids back after class.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
8,546
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd