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Bitterness mars Wall anniversary

No big German celebrations, parades or fireworks

By CNN Correspondent Chris Burns

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• 15 years on:  Germany after the Berlin Wall
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Berlin (Germany)

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- Germany marked a subdued 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, weighed down by bitterness over unification costs.

The nation's leaders laid wreaths Tuesday at a memorial in the Berlin Wall's former death strip, part of somber and subdued ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the fallen wall.

To the toll of a churchbell, the mayors of Berlin joined with leaders of Germany's major parties along with about 150 others in a quiet morning ceremony beginning with a church service.

"Today is a high point and a low point of German history. We should not forget the victims," said Manfred Fischer, pastor of the Reconciliation Church.

"The fall of the Berlin Wall was a worldwide sign of hope. It was a spring day in the middle of November for Berlin, for Germany, for Europe."

The service was held inside a concrete chapel built in the death strip in the years since the wall fell. It replaced a church once destroyed by East German authorities.

Names of some of the more than 1,000 Berlin Wall victims, some of whom died after jumping out of nearby buildings, were read.

Few members of the German public attended, however, as many remain embittered by the process of unification, which remains a difficult marriage for East and West Germany.

In former East Germany, unemployment is at least 20 percent. Western Germans, meanwhile, grumble about higher taxes, the proceeds from which finance reconstruction in the east. That reconstruction has cost more than $1 trillion since 1990.

A recent poll indicated one in five Germans, including nearly one in four western Germans, would like to see the wall return.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a statement that while much in the country has been achieved since the wall fell, "we must not relent in our efforts to complete German unification."


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