‘A wonderful gift’
Germans recall end of Berlin Wall 19 years ago as ‘wonderful gift’ in commemoration ceremonies.
Berlin -- Germany marked the sudden end of the Berlin Wall 19 years ago, with the former mayor of West Berlin, Walter Momper, recalling it as a "wonderful gift."
The commemoration coincided with more somber ceremonies marking Kristallnacht, the 1938 orgy of Nazi violence against Jews.
Momper, who was Berlin’s mayor from 1989 to 1991 and is now speaker of the Berlin legislature, said the date wrapped together both the peaceful revolution against communism in 1989 and the pogrom of 1938.
After weeks of protests, East German authorities suddenly announced on Nov. 9, 1989, that their citizens could pass through the wall and visit the West at will.
In the months following, the wall was demolished and East Germany merged into West Germany.
Nov. 9 is sometimes described in Germany as a "fateful date" because it is anniversary of so much, including the end of the monarchy and foundation of a republic in 1918.
At a ceremony in the Bernauer Strasse Memorial next to remains of the wall, Momper said, "This day was a wonderful gift to Germans."
"From unification, we learned to walk tall, which we had often not been able to do before," he added. "The division of Germany dissolved with amazing orderliness and the East German system just collapsed."
He said the day had been for him personally one of the happiest in his life.
The memorial, which is still rudimentary but is to be expanded into a major site for visitors, recalls the people killed by East German border guards when they tried to flee over the barrier, which existed from 1961 to 1989.
Bernauer Strasse was an oddity, with its eastern side marking the boundary. For a time, residents could enter buildings from the east and escape out windows into the street, which was in the West.
The buildings were demolished by the communists and replaced by the wall. A few remaining sections of the wall, which encircled the whole West Berlin enclave, remain as a tourist attraction.