Berlin Wall revelers celebrate through the night
November 9, 1999
BERLIN (CNN) -- Berliners braved the cold drizzle to join parties and concerts from the Brandenburg Gate to Checkpoint Charlie while celebrating into Wednesday the anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demise.
While they may have lacked the joyous spontaneity of the champagne-swigging revelers who hammered at the Wall with chisels 10 years ago, they were able to briefly forget the problems plaguing unified Germany.
"This is a wonderful day for us," said 50-year-old Sigmar Nowotsch, who spent that evening at a Communist party rally. "We have so much we never had before, the travel freedom and real prospects."
He was one of the tens of thousands of people who commemorated the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the Wall, which marked the end of the communist era in Eastern Europe.
Renowned cellist Mstislav Rostropovich celebrated the anniversary the same way he marked the night Berliners began to tear down that most-reviled symbol of the Cold War -- he picked up his rosined bow and played.
In 1989, Rostropovich's concert was a spontaneous participation in an event that changed the world. Tuesday, the cellist appeared on stage with 160 other cellists and the Cold War leaders instrumental in ending the communist era.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, his predecessor Helmut Kohl, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former U.S. President George Bush mounted the stage to applaud and be applauded by some of the people to whom they said the revolution really belonged.
But amid the pomp and plaudits surrounding the anniversary, one towering figure in the demise of Soviet communism remained in the shadows.
Many believe it was the crystal-clear convictions and unadorned rhetoric of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, now deep in the dark embrace of Alzheimer's disease at his California home, that put the final nails in the coffin of the threadbare, repressive Soviet empire.
Some historians debate just how big Reagan's contribution was to the West's long-fought victory in the Cold War. Some suggest his tough line may even have prolonged the fight by hardening Moscow against concessions despite its crisis.
"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Reagan declared in 1987.
Two years later, Berliners seized the chance to take to the streets in a spontaneous explosion of disbelief and jubilation as they realized the Wall that had divided their city had crashed to the ground -- literally and figuratively.
"These pictures of joy are something we should remember as a foundation for the future," Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen said, recalling images of Berliners flooding across the Wall from the east, welcomed in the open arms of their neighbors after 28 years of forcible separation.
Tuesday's celebrations were the crest of 10 days of events to commemorate the Wall's demise.
Eastern German resentment lingers over Westerners' deals
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