ANGELA Merkel has today urged Europe to defend “democracy and freedom” 30 years after the Berlin Wall was torn down.
Thousands are gathering in Germany to mark the historic anniversary paying tribute to the peaceful protests which helped crush communism in the eastern block.
The German leader plants a rose on one of the last remaining sections of the wall at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin[/caption]
Berliners gather in the rain to mark the historic event which saw Germany united as one[/caption]
The wall divided the city for 28 years[/caption]
East Germans climb over the wall in November 1989[/caption]
Chancellor Merkel, who was raised in East Germany under its twisted ideology, today placed a rose on one of the last remaining sections of the wall at Bernauer Strasse.
The German leader, who also lit a candle at a memorial in the city, said values of tolerance and human rights “must always be lived out and defended anew.”
Following World War II, Germany was divided in two – with the Soviet-aligned east, known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR), held captive by an oppressive regime and a brutal secret police force.
The imposing concrete wall was constructed in 1961 to stop the flow of defectors seeking democracy and freedom of speech.
But 28 years later, with the GDR economy crumbling and unrest through out of the Soviet block including in countries such as Poland and Hungary, Germany was about to be united once again.
On November 9, 1989, a government spokesman mistakenly said on live television that the movement to the West was to open “immediately”.
That announcement was picked up by West German television, which was watched widely in the East, which declared “East Germany opens borders”, according to BBC documentary The Fall of the Berlin Wall with John Simpson.
Within hours, hundreds of thousands of people flooded towards the wall climbing over it while others took sledgehammers to the infamous structure.
Today, Merkel will be joined by officials and leaders from other European countries to celebrate the moment when the iron curtain across the continent came crashing down.
FALL OF THE WALL
The German Chancellor was born in the west of the country in 1954 but grew up in the impoverished east after her pastor father moved there for work when she was a baby.
Already a leading academic in the communist country in the 1980s, she very quickly became involved in the democratic movement following the fall of the wall.
Berliners will gather for the main commemoration today at Bernauer Strasse, where one of the last parts of the wall still stands.
Heavily-armed special forces cops wearing masks were seen on the streets of Berlin this morning ahead of the high profile event.
Light installations, concerts and public debates are also being held throughout the city and other parts of Germany to mark the anniversary.
Masked special forces cops pictured in the city today ahead of the anniversary events[/caption]
Merkel places a candle at the Berlin Wall Memorial today[/caption]
Angela Merkel in Berlin today for the celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall[/caption]
A man pounds away the Berlin Wall as East Berlin border guards look on from above the Brandeburg Gate on November 11, 1989[/caption]
Why was the Berlin Wall destroyed?
The dismantling of the Berlin Wall was the climax of six months in which the communist regimes of eastern Europe tottered and fell.
The 12ft high, 87-mile-long wall was built as the Cold War raged in 1961, with Germany divided into two separate nations, Communist East and democratic West.
The historic Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989.
Official demolition of the Berlin Wall began in the summer of 1990.
More than 40,000 wall sections were recycled and used for German reconstruction projects.
All the border controls ended on July 1st 1990 and Germany became one country again on October 3rd 1990.
A COUNTRY UNITED
The wall cut West Berlin off from the Eastern half of the city and from East Germany. It was a forbidding and impenetrable barrier between two states and between the world’s opposing political ideals.
The seeds of its destruction were sown by the reforming Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
On November 1, 1989, the East German government gave in, opening its border with Czechoslovakia.
After more demonstrations the East German government resigned.
On November 9 it was announced that exit visas would be granted to all East Germans who wished to visit the West.
The border was now open. Overjoyed citizens flocked to the Berlin Wall and began pulling it down with sledgehammers, chisels or their hands. Germany was reunified in October 1990.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and Russia became a democratic republic.
Germans from East and West stand on the Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin[/caption]
The dismantling of the Berlin Wall was the climax of six months in which the communist regimes of eastern Europe tottered and fell[/caption]