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Tuesday, November 9, 1999 Published at 03:46 GMT

World: Europe

Berlin marks the fall of the wall

Scenes of jubilation 10 years ago

By Berlin Correspondent Rob Broomby

Celebrations reach a climax on Tuesday as Berliners mark the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Communism - the end of an era

The once-divided city is holding a series of commemorations, which will climax in the illumination of a 4km path following the old route of the wall.

Rock, folk and classical musicians will perform on five stages and the former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, will address the German parliament.

For 28 years the concrete and wire screen sliced through Germany, dividing families, villages and the capital itself.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt: "10 years of freeedom in a united city"
In true Orwellian style, the East German leadership dubbed the Wall the anti-fascist protection barrier, but it was built to keep East Germans in.

Six days after construction began in 1961, the wall claimed its first victim, a man fell to his death trying to escape to the West from a top floor apartment.

[ image: West Berliners, right, watch the wall go up]
West Berliners, right, watch the wall go up
Days later an escapee was shot by border guards, the first of hundreds to be gunned down in bids for freedom.

The brightly-lit wall, with its death strip, anti-personnel mines, automatically-triggered guns and vicious dogs, came to symbolise the Cold War stand-off and a people imprisoned.

Ten years ago, after weeks of mass protest, at exactly seven minutes to seven, a Politburo member prematurely announced East Germans were free to leave.

His words hit the evening news programmes and thousands began streaming towards the Bornholmer Strasse check point, chanting "open the gate".

[ image: Workmen put up platforms for the party]
Workmen put up platforms for the party
The guards were caught unprepared and without orders. Half an hour before midnight the wall was breached and, amidst emotional scenes, thousands of East Berliners fled uncontrolled to the West, greeted by hugs and tears of joy by their Western cousins.

Berliners are now preparing to relive the night that changed their history.

There will be church services and a wreath-laying in what remains of the death strip, all culminating in the illumination of the Wall's route and a series of pop and rock performances and an all-night party at the Brandenburg Gate.

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