Berlin Wall anniversary: Merkel warns democracy is not 'self-evident'

Rome marks 30th anniversary of fall of Berlin Wall

What started out as a makeshift barbed wire and concrete barricade separating the already politically divided nation of Germany quickly became a symbol of the Cold War and the historic clash between capitalistic and communistic idealism.

Issuing a similar message, von der Leyen said 30 years after the epochal event that was thought to usher in the unstoppable train of liberal democracy, "today, we have to admit that our complacency was naive".

Merkel said the past must serve as a lesson, noting that the collapse of the Berlin Wall is "history and teaches us that no wall that keeps people out and limits freedom is so high or so wide that it can not be broken through".

The event commemorates the May 1945 Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

However, Mrs Merkel warned on Saturday that "the values on which Europe is founded - freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, human rights - they are anything but self-evident and they have to be revitalised and defended time and time again".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was not at the ceremony, but visited Berlin earlier this week.

Pompeo meanwhile left behind a stark warning: "As we celebrate, we must also recognise that freedom is never guaranteed".

"Western, free nations have a responsibility to deter threats to our people" from governments like China, Russia and Iran, Pompeo said, speaking just a few metres (yards) away from where the Wall ran past the German capital's world-famous Brandenburg Gate.

Merkel also recalled that November 9 remains a fraught date in German history, as it also marks the anniversary of the so-called Night of Broken Glass, an anti-Jewish pogrom in 1938 that foreshadowed the Nazi's Holocaust.

"That applies to us all in East and West: we stand stripped of any excuses and are required to do our part for freedom and democracy". Over the years, East and West Germans worked together to find effective ways of helping East German citizens escape to the west by ramming barricades with cars, jumping out of the windows of buildings along the wall, as well as escaping through sewers and tunnels that were dug beneath the wall.

A series of mass protests in East Germany - and a mistaken announcement by a government spokesman - led to large crowds gathering at the border.

During the 1989 revolutions, several Soviet-imposed communist regimes in Eastern Europe were toppled as people demanded independence or greater freedoms.



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