Support The Moscow Times!

Merkel Thanks Gorbachev On Berlin Wall Anniversary

Angela Merkel and Mikhail Gorbachev crossing the Bornholmer bridge, a former border crossing between East and West Berlin, on Monday. Herbert Knosowski

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev crossed a former fortified border 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 hours of a confused announcement 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.

Merkel also welcomed Poland’s 1980s pro-democracy leader, Lech Walesa, to the former crossing Monday, saying his Solidarity movement provided “incredible encouragement” to East Germans.

The bridge crossing was one of a series of events marking Monday’s anniversary of the border’s opening after the wall kept East German citizens penned in for 28 years.

Memorials were held for the 136 people killed trying to cross the wall — which snaked for 155 kilometers around West Berlin, a capitalist enclave deep inside East Germany. Candles were lit and 1,000 towering plastic foam dominoes placed along the wall’s route to be tipped over late Monday. Also in Berlin for the ceremonies were the leaders of all 27 European Union countries and President Dmitry Medvedev.

“This is not just a day of celebration for Germans,” Merkel said. “This is a day of celebration for the whole of Europe; this is a day of celebration for all those people who have more freedom.”

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

Once
Monthly
Annual
Continue
paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more