Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev crossed a former fortified border on Monday to cheers of "Gorby! Gorby!" as a throng of grateful Germans recalled the night 20 years ago that the Berlin Wall gave way to their desire for freedom and unity.
Within moments of a confused announcement on Nov. 9, 1989 that East Germany was lifting travel restrictions, hundreds of people streamed into the enclave that was West Berlin , marking a pivotal moment in the collapse of communism in Europe.
Merkel, who grew up in East Germany and was one of thousands to cross that night, recalled that "before the joy of freedom came, many people suffered."
She lauded Gorbachev, with whom she shared an umbrella amid a crush of hundreds, eager for a glimpse of the man many still consider a hero for his role in pushing reform in the Soviet Union.
"We always knew that something had to happen there so that more could change here," she said.
"You made this possible — you courageously let things happen, and that was much more than we could expect," she told Gorbachev in front of several hundred people gathered in light drizzle on the bridge over railway lines, The Associated Press reports.
According to Reuters pivotal figures from the era that ushered in the collapse of communism in eastern Europe, such as ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Walesa, who led anti-communist protests in Poland at the head of the Solidarity trade union, will take part in commemorative events around the once-divided capital on Monday.
Joining them will be the leaders of the nations which occupied postwar Germany, apart from the United States, which will be represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are all due to attend the celebrations hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, amid a series of bilateral meetings.
Thousands of tourists have poured into the capital to mark the event which hastened the reunification of Germany, the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Soviet Union.
Berlin will wield considerable influence over the choice of those positions, a topic of considerable discussion (it is widely to be a conservative president and a social democrat, possibly Britain's David Miliband, in the foreign-policy position) Hillary Clinton, the United States Secretary of State, used the occasion, and the metaphor of the Wall, to fire a surprisingly blunt shot at Afghan president Hamid Karzai, whose inaction and apparent corruption has angered Washington.
“We need to form an even stronger partnership to bring down the walls of the twenty-first century, and to confront those who hide behind them: Suicide bombers, those who murder girls who want to go to school, and leaders who choose their own fortune over those of their people,” Ms. Clinton told an audience as she accepted an award in Berlin on Monday, Globe and Mail informs.