Merkel marks fall of Berlin Wall and urges Europe to fight for ‘freedom, democracy, equality’

No wall that keeps people out and restricts freedom is so high or so wide that it can’t be broken down

Germany has marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall that separated East and West Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel remembering the victims. Video: Reuters

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Europe to fight harder for its values as Germany marked 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall on Saturday.

“The values on which Europe is based - freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, safeguarding human rights - these are anything but self-evident,” Ms Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, said in a speech at the wall memorial in the center of the once-divided capital.

“They must be experienced and defended anew again and again,” said the 65-year-old. “In times of far-reaching technological and global change, this is more relevant than ever.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lights a candle at the memorial of the divided city and the victims of communist tyranny during a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel lights a candle at the memorial of the divided city and the victims of communist tyranny during a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters.
Czech President Milos Zeman, Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Hungarian President Janos Ader and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stick flowers into slats of a still-standing portion of the Berlin Wall following a ceremony to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its fall. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty
Czech President Milos Zeman, Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Hungarian President Janos Ader and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stick flowers into slats of a still-standing portion of the Berlin Wall following a ceremony to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its fall. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schaeuble and heads of state from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic also attended the ceremony.

“The Berlin Wall is gone and that teaches us that no wall that excludes people and restricts freedom is so high or so wide that it cannot be broken through,” Ms Merkel said.

The ceremony took place at Bernauer Strasse — where one of the last parts of the wall, the once-fearsome barrier that divided the city for 28 years, remains.

Axel Klausmeier, the head of the Berlin Wall memorial site, recalled the images of delirious Berliners from East and West crying tears of joy as they hugged each other on the evening of November 9th, 1989.

Mr Klausmeier paid tribute to the peaceful protesters in East Germany and neighbouring Warsaw Pact countries who took to the streets demanding freedom and democracy, and to then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of reforms.

The protests and a stream of people fleeing East Germany piled pressure on the country’s Communist government to open its borders to the West and ultimately end the nation’s post-war division.

Thirty years on, Germany has become the most powerful economic and political force on the continent, but there remain deep misgivings among some in the country about how the transition from socialism to capitalism was managed.

Ms Merkel acknowledged this in a recent interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, saying that “with some things, where one might have thought that East and West would have aligned, one can see today that it might rather take half a century or more”.

Speaking at a memorial service in a small chapel near where the Wall once stood, Ms Merkel commemorated those who were killed or imprisoned for trying to flee from East to West Germany and insisted that the fight for freedom worldwide is not over.

This photo taken on November 11, 1989 in Berlin shows young East Berliners celebrating atop the Berlin Wall. Photograph by: AFP/Getty
This photo taken on November 11, 1989 in Berlin shows young East Berliners celebrating atop the Berlin Wall. Photograph by: AFP/Getty

“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.

The German chancellor also recalled that November 9th remains a fraught date in German history, as it also marks the anniversary of the so-called Night of Broken Glass, an anti-Jewish pogrom in 1938 that foreshadowed the Nazis’ Holocaust.

Light installations, concerts and public debates are planned throughout the city and other parts of Germany to mark the fall of the wall, including a concert at Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate. - AP, Bloomberg.