German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday publicly thanked former
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev for allowing changes two decades ago
that led to the opening of the Berlin Wall.
Flanked by Mr. Gorbachev and former Polish President Lech Walesa, Ms.
Merkel expressed her gratitude at ceremonies in Berlin marking the 20th
anniversary of the wall's opening.
"You made this possible," the chancellor said as she addressed Mr.
Gorbachev in front of hundreds of cheering people gathered at the foot
of Berlin's Bornholmer Bridge.
The bridge was the first crossing between East and West Berlin to open
on November 9, 1989. The opening led to the reunification of the
country, and was a key milestone in the collapse of communism across
Officials say 100,000 were expected at Monday's festivities, dubbed the "Festival of Freedom."
European heads of state and dignitaries from the United States have joined Ms. Merkel for the celebrations.
In addition to Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Walesa, guests in Berlin include
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the presidents of France and
Russia, Nicolas Sarkozy and Dmitri Medvedev. U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and a host of former diplomats are among the U.S.
A solemn vigil was honoring the 136 people killed trying to cross the
border between 1961 to 1989. Separately, 1,000 giant foam dominos
placed along the route of the former wall will be toppled Monday
Communist East Germany's fortified border crumbled after weeks of
pro-democracy protests. Thousands of East Germans surged past
checkpoints into the west on November 9, when East German guards
suddenly opened the border.