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Germany marks 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall

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European
leaders gathered in Berlin on Saturday to mark 30 years since the fall of
the wall that divided East and West Berlin, where German Chancellor
Angela Merkel urged Europe to defend democracy and freedom.

Leaders from
Central and Eastern Europe gathered in the German capital to celebrate the
pivotal moment in history that marked the end of communism and the
reunification of the country.

A number of
events were scheduled to take place across the city, which included the
commemoration ceremony at the Berlin Wall Memorial that leaders attended.

During the
event, Merkel said European values must be not be taken for granted.

“The
values that Europe is based on — freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law,
human rights — these are not to be taken for granted,” Merkel said.
“We always have to defend them.

“In the
future Europe will [continue to] be fighting for human rights, tolerance and
democracy.” she added. “This is a time of global changes, so this is
a pressing issue.”

German
Chancellor Angela Merkel greets young visitors as she walks to the Chapel of
Reconciliation before attending the memorial service.

Candles will
also be lit for victims of communist violence and celebrations will continue on
into the evening at the Brandenburg Gate — the symbol of a reunified Germany
which once stood at the center of the no man’s land between East and West.

The seismic
event of the fall of the Berlin wall sent shock waves across Europe 30 years
ago, and sparked hopes for millions of East Germans.

On August
13, 1961, citizens woke up to find a makeshift barricade of barbed wire and
cinder blocks that sliced through their city.

The barrier
evolved over the next three decades into a 45-kilometer concrete wall, which
symbolized the deep ideological divide between the Soviet bloc and the West at
the height of the Cold War. The three-and-a-half meter deep wall was fortified
with watchtowers, electric fences and armed guards.

On November
9 in 1989, jubilant crowds stormed the concrete blockade, just minutes after
the Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) announced that travel
restrictions would be lifted for east Germans. The propaganda and fear were
replaced with a sense of freedom and unity.

However,
despite the fall of the wall, three decades later an invisible barrier still
stretches across Germany.

While slowly
disintegrating, the divide remains. According to Steffen Mau, a sociology
professor at Berlin’s Humboldt University many gaps, particularly the economic
ones have narrowed but people still have “strong differences in attitudes
and mentality.”

Even the way
people see themselves and their country varies. Mau explains that most west
Germans say there is “no difference any more … while most east Germans
would say there is still a striking difference between East and West.”

According to
some surveys, he added, as many as half of east Germans still feel like
“second-class citizens.”

In terms of wealth, the six eastern states had a lot of catching up to do when the Wall came down. And while a big chunk of that gap has closed over the past three decades, the East is still lagging behind, in terms of both GDP and incomes.

source: cnn.com

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