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Wednesday, November 10, 1999 Published at 12:23 GMT

World: Europe

Berlin anniversary ends with a bang

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

Celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall reached their climax on Tuesday night with a concert and a firework display.

Communism - the end of an era
Despite the wet weather crowds massed around the Brandenburg gate to watch a performance by the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who played the Bach suite he had performed when he came to the Wall shortly after it fell.

The German rock group The Scorpions then played their song "Wind of Change" which had been the unofficial anthem of freedom sung and hummed by many who crossed from east to west a decade ago.

[ image: Flares illuminated a 4km stretch of the wall]
Flares illuminated a 4km stretch of the wall
The festivities ended with fireworks as a chain of red flares illuminated the old route of the wall.

Most of the estimated 30,000 revellers left by midnight, but some stayed on at street parties that continued throughout the night.

Hal Sturm, a 44-year-old bus driver from the western part of the city, said he was there because the fall of the Wall "was a gift" that he wanted to celebrate.

Claudia Quast, a 28-year-old student from Dresden in eastern Germany, said she had come to "live a little what it was like" on 9 November 1989.

Earlier during the commemorations wreaths were laid at the Wall in memory of hundreds of victims gunned down trying to escape to the West.

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.

Then-US 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: Gorbachev (left) and Kohl: Instrumental in 1989]
Gorbachev (left) and Kohl: Instrumental in 1989
His successor, Gerhard Schroeder, 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 - Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938, when Nazis destroyed more than 250 synagogues throughout Germany.

Modern problems

[ image: People placed candles at the site where the wall first came down]
People placed candles at the site where the wall first came down
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 former 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."

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