Three former heads of state who oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 have gathered in Germany’s capital to take part in ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of the historic event.
George H. W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Helmut Kohl, who were the leaders of the United States, the Soviet Union, and West Germany respectively, are seen by many as the main architects of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the event leading to Germany’s reunification and the collapse of communism in Europe.
The three statesmen were invited by the current German Chancellor Angela Merkel to take part in a series of events that mark the start of celebrations in Berlin remembering the fall of the wall on November 9, 1989.
The three men emphasized that in the end it was the will of the people -- not the decisions of political leaders -- that brought the Berlin Wall down.
“The historic events we have gathered to celebrate were set in motion not in Bonn or Moscow or Washington, but rather in the hearts and minds of people, who had too long been deprived of their God-given rights," Bush said.
"The wall could confine them from loved ones and lock them in the failing economic system but in the end it could not extinguish the embers of their undying hope or harness their human desire for freedom.”
Both Bush and Gorbachev called on Germany, the United States, and Russia to continue to find ways to build a prosperous and peaceful future.
“The experience we are talking about now and rejoicing its outcome, teaches us that we have to do everything together, we need to trust each other,” Gorbachev said.
Kohl hailed the cooperation and “enormous trust” among the three leaders that paved the way toward German reunification in 1990.
Kohl, who was the first chancellor of the unified Germany, described Bush and Gorbachev as “hugely important” and reliable partners for Germany.
The ceremony, which took place in the 1,800-seat Friedrichstadt Palast, a Berlin theater, was hosted by Bernhard Vogel, president of Germany’s conservative Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Missing from the reunion were two other leaders who were influential at the time -- former French President Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who is in ill health.
The Berlin Wall, seen as the symbol of the Cold War, was erected by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1961 to separate West Germany from East Germany and stop migration to the West.
On November 9, 1989, with a revolutionary wave sweeping across Eastern Europe, the East German government announced that all GDR citizens could travel to the West.
People from both sides of the wall started to climb it in a celebratory mood. The Berlin Wall was pulled down in the weeks following, and the reunification of Germany was formally announced on October 3, 1990.