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Tuesday, November 9, 1999 Published at 10:31 GMT


World: Europe

Berlin party marks anniversary

Prost: Berliners ignore the rain to celebrate by the Brandenburg Gate

Germany has celebrated the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - the event which symbolised the end of the Cold War.

Communism - the end of an era
The day began with a service of thanksgiving for the peaceful arrival of German unity. It ended with a rock concert for Germans from both sides of the defunct border.

In between, wreaths were laid at the Wall in memory of hundreds of victims gunned down trying to escape to the West.

Many other commemorations marked the 10th anniversary, including the illumination of a 4km path along the old route of the Wall.


The BBC's John Simpson: "A grand, expensive and impressive occasion"
But the main official event was in the lower house of the German parliament where three former world leaders - German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and US President George Bush - remembered the collapse of the Wall.

Other leading guests at the events included Nato Secretary-General George Robertson, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek and his predecessor at the time of unification, Krzysztof Skubiszewski.

Mr Gorbachev said: "We had the privilege of trusting each other."


[ image:  ]
He said it was the people, not the politicians, who had played the most important role in removing the Wall.

Mr Gorbachev said that although Germany still faced problems caused by reunification, he was confident they would be resolved.

But the former Russian president also questioned the treatment of the last East German leader, Egon Krenz, whose appeal on manslaughter charges was quashed on Monday.

He said that he could not understand why Germans were putting on trial leaders who had decided to make the world transparent.

Ex-President Bush told the parliament how he had watched the Wall being brought down, but said the US reaction had to be restrained.


George Bush: "History will be very kind to Mikhail Gorbachev
He said: "Freedom was literally cascading over the Wall ... but an arrogant move on our part could have destroyed the joy and set back the cause for which so many people had worked, bled and even died.

"In many ways, no situation was as dicey as the one we all faced on 9 November 1989."

Former Chancellor Kohl said: "Ten years ago pictures from here went around the world.

"Those pictures were made possible by the courage of people to stand up against a dictatorship.

"They showed the majority of people in Germany had not accepted the separation of our nation."


[ image:  ]
His successor, Gerhard Shroeder, said: "The Wall was brought down, not by Washington or Moscow, but by courageous people from the east.

"It was brought down by tears of joy, and the process of unity was irreversible."

He added that the events on 9 November 1989 had been a second chance for Germany and Europe to achieve peace and democracy.

The speeches also remembered another German anniversary - the Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938, when Nazis destroyed more than 250 synagogues throughout Germany.

Modern problems


[ image: Preparing for a party in united Berlin]
Preparing for a party in united Berlin
For 28 years, the Berlin Wall cut through the city, dividing families and friends.

The East German Government called it an anti-fascist protection barrier. For the West it was the most chilling symbol of the Cold War.

Searchlights, watch-towers and automatically-triggered guns were all set up on the Wall, with the intention of keeping East Berliners in East Germany.


European business correspondent Patrick Bartlett: "The legacy of unification"
But, 10 years on, despite bleak memories of communism, some people have become disillusioned with life in the reunified Germany.

With the end of communism came problems - most notably unemployment and the increased cost of living.

Those problems were underlined on Tuesday when Germany's latest unemployment figures were announced.

The figure for the old East Germany is 16.9%, compared to 8.2% in the west and 9.9% nationally.


[ image:  ]
Ten years ago, as she walked through the breached Wall, Steffi Ruehmann said: "We like to have this experience, to go this way."

Now she says: "I am 47 years old and I think I have no chance for a job, this is what I see for the future."

Others, often younger East Germans who cannot remember or did not know the restrictions of the communist past, are more confident.

Marco Kaehlke crossed the Berlin Wall to dance in a West German nightclub. Now he says: "I live in West Germany, I run my own company, and I live my dream."

As party organisers made their last-minute preparations on Monday, German courts were also dealing with the past.

Former East German leader Egon Krentz lost his appeal against his conviction for the manslaughter of people shot dead trying to cross the Berlin Wall.





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