Tens of thousands gather in Berlin to mark fall of Wall 25yrs on (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Current and former world leaders gathered in Berlin this weekend as tens of thousands flocked to the German capital to celebrate the anniversary of the Berlin Wall collapse, which reunited Germany and signaled a profound change in international affairs.
"The fall of the Berlin Wall showed us that dreams can come true - and that nothing has to stay the way it is, no matter how big the hurdles are," said Merkel speaking at a ceremony at the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse on Sunday.
On the night of November 9, 1989 the wall dividing East and West Berlin was toppled after 28 years separating families and loved ones.
"It was about reclaiming freedom, about being citizens, not subjects," said Merkel who grew up in East Germany. "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."
People in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere around the world should feel inspired by the example of the Berlin Wall’s demise, Merkel added.
Amid the celebration, the team at the International Space Station sent a peace message from orbit. Russian ISS commander, cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst reminded how people can live and work together for the benefit of all humankind.
At least a million people were expected to attend the commemorative events in Berlin on Sunday. Several exhibitions dedicated to the event were opened, including the open-air exhibition "100 Wall Stories" consisting of a hundred exhibits along with the lighted balloon installation with stories of a divided city before the Wall, the construction of the Wall in 1961, protests, escape attempts, arrests and deaths, and everyday life in the divided city.
Merkel also participated in the lighting of candles at the National Memorial for the Victims of the Berlin wall.
One of the most anticipated parts of the commemoration program took place in the evening. Berliners and guests watched as 8,000 helium-filled balloons strung along a 15-kilometer stretch of the former border are released into the sky to Beethoven’s “Ode to joy”. This was followed by a vivid fireworks display and an open-air party at the city's Brandenburg Gate.
During the festive events the German Chancellor also noted that November 9 is also a significant day for the country’s history for the Reichskristallnacht – or the “Night of Broken Glass." This was a night when in 1938 the Nazi authorities launched a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria.
"That was the opening note for the murder of millions," said Merkel, adding that on this day each year "I feel not just joy, but the responsibility that German history burdens us with."
After the fall of the Nazi regime as a result of World War II, Germany became two separate countries by 1949. The Federal Republic of Germany (West) was run by the Allies, while the German Democratic Republic (East) was controlled by the Soviet Union. Berlin was on the territory of East Germany, however it was shared with the Wall dividing the territories of the two states.
The fall of the Wall marked the coming of a new age – the end of the Cold war and the bipolar world and paved the way for Germany’s reunification in 1990.
The three day commemoration events were attended by the iconic former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who on Saturday warned western leaders to tone down anti-Russian rhetoric and seek points of convergence.