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Special Coverage

The fall of the Berlin Wall, 30 years on

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Parliament President Wolfgang Schaeuble, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Hungary's President Janos Ader, Czech Republic's President Milos Zeman, Poland's President Andrzej Duda and Slovakia's President Zuzana Caputova attend a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Parliament President Wolfgang Schaeuble, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Hungary's President Janos Ader, Czech Republic's President Milos Zeman, Poland's President Andrzej Duda and Slovakia's President Zuzana Caputova attend a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall Fabrizio Bensch, Reuters

On November 9, 1989, surprised East Germans emerged in disbelief through the first openings in the Berlin Wall, as its historic fall ushered in the end of the Eastern bloc and national reunification in Germany.

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That November night was a historic moment, not just for Germans but for Europe and the wider world.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was the most iconic moment in the collapse of the Eastern bloc, and perhaps the most significant single day for the end of the Cold War.

On the 30th anniversary of the wall's destruction, FRANCE—24 was at the East Side Gallery: a 1.3-km stretch of the wall that was painted with evocative murals in the summer of 1990. It is one of the few remaining sections of what was once the most visible incarnation of the Iron Curtain.

We heard from Germans who grew up on both sides of the divide and disappointment at the inequalities that still divide East and West Germans, fanning support for the far right.

Europe "must stand up for democracy and freedom, for human rights and tolerance", Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her speech on the 30th anniversary on Saturday.

Such values "must always be lived out and defended anew", Merkel told political leaders and European guests at a ceremony, warning that these freedoms cannot be taken for granted.

She spoke at the Reconciliation Chapel on the former "death strip" that ran alongside the wall that divided the communist East from the democratic West.

Merkel herself grew up in East Germany and was a scientist working in Berlin when the wall fell on November 9, 1989.

That communist authorities finally opened border crossings that day "teaches us that no wall that shuts people out and limits freedom is so tall or broad that it cannot be broken through", Merkel said.

The chancellor and guests, including the presidents of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, had earlier been invited to stick roses through holes in a section of wall still standing at the Bernauer Strasse memorial just north of central Berlin.

Groups of schoolchildren from around Europe, including war-torn Ukraine, gave speeches in their native languages to the leaders gathered for the commemoration.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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