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Berliners, tourists mark 25 years of the fall of the Wall

Cars drive past the installation 'Lichtgrenze' (Border of Light) along the East Side Gallery, the largest remaining part of the former Berlin Wall, in Berlin on Saturday. A part of the inner city of Berlin is being temporarily divided from November 7 to 9, with a light installation featuring 8000 luminous white balloons, following the path the Berlin Wall once occupied, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall.

Cars drive past the installation 'Lichtgrenze' (Border of Light) along the East Side Gallery, the largest remaining part of the former Berlin Wall, in Berlin on Saturday. A part of the inner city of Berlin is being temporarily divided from November 7 to 9, with a light installation featuring 8000 luminous white balloons, following the path the Berlin Wall once occupied, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall.  

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Berlin has put in place an ambitious art installation consisting of 8,000 illuminated white balloons snaking along the 12 km stretch retracing the path of the wall.

On a bitterly cold and overcast Sunday, thousands of Berliners and tourists from across the world milled around memorials and the few remaining portions of the Berlin Wall to pay tribute to those who died trying to flee the former German and celebrate the end of one of the most tense, conflict-ridden periods of human history.

Speaking at the opening of a new information centre at the Berlin Wall memorial German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Berlin, said that the events of 25 years ago were a dream come true and that it was important not to forget them.

“We can change things for the better. This is the message for... Ukraine, Iraq and other places where human rights are threatened.” She also attended a service for those who died trying to flee the German Democratic Republic, as the former East Germany was known, at the Chapel of Reconciliation, which used to exist in the “death strip” or the area between the walls on the eastern and the western side.

Later at night, 8,000 illuminated white balloons placed along the 12 km stretch to retrace the path of the wall, an ambitious art installation put in place by the city, were released with Beethoven’s ninth symphony playing in the background, signifying the disappearance of one of the most enduring symbols of the Cold War. An estimated two to three million people attended a concert at the city landmark of Brandenburg Gate, which featured performances by the orchestra of the Berlin State Opera and English musician-songwriter Peter Gabriel among others. The former Polish president, Lech Walesa, Hungary’s ex-premier Miklos Nemeth, the last leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and German President Joachim Gauck were in attendance.

Apart from Brandenburg Gate, commemorative events were also held through the day at places where the wall once stood. People watched Ms. Merkel’s speech on giant video screens that for the past three days have been screening documentaries on the history of the GDR and the ‘Peaceful Revolution’ that brought the wall crashing down.

The past days, however, have not been without controversy. At a concert at the country’s Parliament on Friday, dissident singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann, who was kicked out of East Germany in 1976, called the Left Party, whose representatives were only metres away, as the “wretched remains” of the former ruling Socialist Unity Party that ruled East Germany. The Left, or Die Linke as it is called, is leading the winning coalition after winning the elections to the regional parliament in the eastern State of Thuringia. The Left, in turn, has reiterated an apology its predecessor party made in 1990, pointing out that many Germans were still in favour of past social security entitlements.

Meanwhile, an artist collective, the Centre for Political Beauty, created ripples when last week it stole memorial crosses dedicated to people who died while attempting to flee East Germany, and moved them to the fenced borders the European Union shares with Africa in protest against what it called the “new walls around Europe.” According to a study by a consortium of European journalists, more than 23,000 people have lost their lives in the past 14 years while attempting to reach the continent.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:32:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/25-years-of-the-fall-of-the-berlin-wall/article6580144.ece

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