BERLIN (AFP) – Germany kicked off celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the epochal fall of the Berlin Wall Friday, set to culminate in rock stars and freedom icons joining millions at an open-air party.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, will lead three days of commemorations for those killed trying to flee the repressive state, leading up to a giant festival Sunday marking the joyous breach of Europe’s Cold War division on November 9, 1989.
“I think you never forget how you felt that day – at least I will never forget it,” Merkel, 60, said in a recent podcast.
“I had to wait 35 years for that feeling of liberty. It changed my life.”
The festivities under the banner “Courage for Freedom” are remembering the peaceful revo-lution that led communist authorities to finally open the border after 28 years in which Easterners were prisoners of their own country.
Germany would reunite within the year, on October 3, 1990.
Dissident singer Wolf Biermann, who was kic-ked out of East Germany in 1976, performed his protest song “Ermutigung” (Encouragement) in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, in a tribute to those who resisted the regime.
He used the opportunity to take a swipe at the far-left Linke, which has roots in East Germany’s ruling party and had criticised Biermann’s invita-tion to appear at the session.
“Your punishment is to have to listen to me here – enjoy,” he called out to heckling Linke deputies, calling them “the wretched remains of what has fortunately been surmounted”.
Compared to previous anniversaries, the orga-nisation this time has been more grassroots, with Berlin embracing its image as an international ca-pital of the arts.
Later Friday an ambitious installation featuring 8,000 white balloons pegged to the ground along a 15-kilometre stretch of the Wall’s former 155-kilometre path will be illuminated.
The glowing orbs, which from above will look like a long string of pearls, are to be released Sunday from their ropes and set free into the night sky, to the stirring strains of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.