Less than a week until the G20 Leaders’ Summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with an emotional speech and an encouragement for the Ukraine resistance.
Merkel took the opportunity to bring attention to the current tensions in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria where human rights are being threatened or “trampled”.
Merkel laid a rose at the memorial for the 138 people who died attempting to cross the wall during the 28 years the Wall sliced Berlin in half.
At the memorial which was held at one of the remaining sections of the Wall, Merkel spoke of the day being proof that “dreams can come true”.
Thousands of German commemorators attended an open air party at the Brandenburg Gates, which included a performance from Peter Gabriel.
More than 6000 white balloons stretching 15 kilometres were released into the night sky one at a time to symbolise the breaking of the Wall.
The Berlin Wall, a former symbol of oppression has been converted to a symbol of unity and positivity for a country whose chequered past has always been at the fore of the world’s attention.
It was originally constructed in 1961 to stop people fleeing the Soviet-controlled east. It came down in 1989 and has been a symbol of the end of the Cold War.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who was Merkel’s guest of honour, warned that the world may be on the brink of a new Cold War.
“… [A] breakdown of communication of major powers is of enormous concern,” he said.
The tense relationship between Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin could come to a head at G20 with the memorial set to reignite tensions.
Merkel was key in lobbying the EU into handing down tougher sanctions on Russia after Putin reneged on an agreement to withdraw troops from Ukraine.
As the first balloon was released, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said: “We are the happiest people in the world. Nothing and no-one can stand in the way of freedom.”
Vladimir Putin is set to be busy with diplomacy over the next week with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott set to deliver his well-publicised ‘verbal’ shirtfront at the APEC summit in Beijing.
November 9 has always been an emotionally charged day in German history, known widely as Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), so-named because it was the day in 1938 when the Nazis launched a major campaign against the Jewish population.