'We Can Change Things for the Better': The Fall of the Berlin Wall 25 Years Later

German leader Angela Merkel said the the Wall's destruction remains symbol of hope for Ukraine, Iraq, and other countries mired in conflict.

by Liz Fields
Nov 9 2014, 6:50pm

Photo by John Gaps III/AP

Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, said Sunday that the fall of the Berlin Wall is a reminder that change is possible, especially for countries in Europe and the Middle East that are currently mired in conflict.

Speaking on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — which was originally erected to block residents of communist East Berlin from fleeing to the West — Merkel hailed the demolition of the structure as a signal that "dreams can come true."

"We can change things for the better," she said. "This is the message for… Ukraine, Iraq and other places where human rights are threatened… Nothing has to stay as it is."

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The Wall's fall on November 10, 1989 is widely regarded as the symbolic end of the Cold War. Thousands of people attended a tearing-down ceremony, chipping and tearing at the 96-mile, graffiti-coated strip of concrete and cheering jubilantly as segments fell away.

A complete demolition of the Wall occurred the following year, and the reunification of Germany came a few months later.

On Sunday, Merkel, who lived in East Berlin at times both before and after the capital was split, attended the site where some 1.8-miles of wall still stands. Standing alongside other officials on a chilly, overcast day, the chancellor placed a rose in a crack in one of the sections as a tribute to the 138 people who died trying to cross the barrier.

Today, the fall of the Wall has lost none of it's significance, with an estimated 1 million people descending on Berlin this weekend to participate in three days of celebrations marking the quarter-century anniversary of its fall.

Some 7,000 lit balloons have been tethered to a nine mile-long chain of poles standing 11.8 feet tall (the approximate height of the Wall), and will be released later Sunday evening at the conclusion of celebrations.

Mikhail Gorbachev will be among those joining the German chancellor later in the day at the Brandenburg Gate. The former USSR leader is credited with engendering reconciliation with the West and helping bring about the end of the Cold War and communism in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late '80s to early '90s.

Gorbachev, 83, made a portentous speech Saturday that cast a shadow over the weekend's celebrations, saying that renewed tensions between the West and Russia over events in Ukraine now threatens to send the world plunging back into a Cold War.

"Bloodshed in Europe and the Middle East against the backdrop of a breakdown in dialogue between the major powers is of enormous concern," Gorbachev said. "The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some are even saying that it's already begun."

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