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Medvedev to See Domino Berlin Wall Fall

A worker moving a domino piece that symbolizes a segment of the Berlin Wall in a Berlin warehouse Wednesday. Thomas Peter

BERLIN — President Dmitry Medvedev will see the Berlin Wall return to briefly divide the German capital again next month — but with giant, brightly colored dominos rather than cement slabs.

Medvedev will join French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for festivities marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said Wednesday.

As the highlight of a 5-million euro celebration ($7.5 million), a 1.5-kilometer-long segment of the Berlin Wall will stand for two days along its original route in front of the Brandenburg Gate. The row of 1,000 20-kilogram dominos standing 1.5 meters apart — painted in bright colors by schoolchildren — will be toppled at the end of a gala ceremony as a symbolic tribute to the collapse of the wall 20 years earlier.

“It’s only a temporary attraction,” said Wowereit, outlining plans for a two-day festival commemorating the fall of what the communist East had portrayed as an “Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier” to ward off Western aggression.

“I don’t think anyone will come up with the idea that we’re building a wall between East and West Berlin again,” he said. “But there were many who ridiculed this idea at first. Now it’s being seen as a wonderful way to symbolize the falling of the wall.”

The Berlin Wall burst open on Nov. 9, 1989, after months of rising tension in East Germany. Many rushed immediately to border crossings after a Communist East German government leader told a news conference they were free to travel to the West.

The Berlin Wall, a symbol of the Cold War that had split the city and Germany, was peacefully swept away in the months that followed. The two Germanys reunited 11 months later in 1990.

Wowereit said the far grander scale of the festival for the 20th anniversary compared to smaller previous events reflected both a growing interest in exploring the history of Berlin’s Cold War divisions and a greater need to keep the past alive. “I think 20 years marks a good moment to take stock, to take a deeper and more critical look than 10 years ago, and to take a look at what unites us,” Wowereit said.

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