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Wall anniversary celebrations kick off

world Updated: Nov 08, 2009 21:36 IST

Berlin warmed up on Sunday for the 20th anniversary of the Wall's fall with celebrations throughout the city, as crowds gathered to relive the ecstatic scenes that heralded the demise of European communism.



Leaders from across the continent were due in the German capital to join around 100,000 revellers tomorrow at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of national unity since the peaceful revolution that tore down the Wall in 1989.



US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was flying to Berlin to give a speech late Sunday on the challenges facing the West two decades after the Cold War.



German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will also host leaders including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, recalled that the end of Europe's postwar division came as an utter surprise.



"The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall should remind us all what incredible luck we had with the reunification of Europe and Germany," Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, told the Bild newspaper in an interview to be published tomorrow.



On the night of November 9, 1989, following weeks of pro-democracy protests, the Stalinist state's authorities suddenly opened the border.



After 28 years as prisoners of their own country, euphoric East Germans streamed to checkpoints and rushed past bewildered guards, many falling tearfully into the arms of West Germans welcoming them on the other side.