Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, gathered in the capital to mark the historic anniversary of the country’s reunification.
An official commemoration ceremony was held at the Berlin Wall Memorial, where participants placed flowers in holes in the remaining wall there and dignitaries gave remarks.
Merkel warned that Germans should not take European values for granted.
“We want to ensure that no wall will separate people ever again,” she said. “It proves that no wall that segregates people and limits freedom so high and so wide that it could not be broken through.
“I remember those who were killed at this wall because they were seeking liberty.”
European leaders appeared to draw a connection to the former barrier and today’s current events — discussions of migration throughout Europe and hard borders.
“A Europe without walls of division and without hatred is a great opportunity for the citizens to be masters of their own destiny,” Italian President Sergio Mattarella said.
After the official ceremony at the memorial concluded, locals were allowed at the site to place flowers and light candles. A candle-lighting ceremony also was expected to take place at the Brandenburg Gate, which formerly stood in the no-man’s land between the East and West.
On Nov. 9, 1989, the East German government dropped all restrictions on travel to the West, prompting thousands of citizens of the communist state to flock to the Berlin Wall to taste their new freedom. The Wall was a symbol of the Iron Curtain, with construction starting in 1961.
The concrete structure was a barrier between communist East Germany and West Germany. It often separated families, and people who were caught attempting to cross the structure were shot, with up to 200 people dying in the effort. More than 5,000 succeeded in crossing.
Deutsche Welle reported that people are still fleeing the former East Germany out of preference for living in the former West, where it was easier to find jobs.
Reporting from the town of Eisenhüttenstadt, Deutsche Welle journalist said “I’m afraid we are going to be a ghost town in 20 years.
U.S. President Donald Trump released a message Saturday morning commemorating the milestone anniversary.
“On the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I congratulate the German people on the tremendous strides that have been made in reuniting their country and in rebuilding the former East Germany. We will continue working with Germany, one of our most treasured allies, to ensure that the flames of freedom burn as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the entire world to see,” he said.