Over one million Germans and people from around the world celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Sunday, associated also with the end of the Cold War. Seven thousand illuminated helium balloons that traced the outline of the wall that once divided the city were released into the night sky to symbolize the demonstrations in 1989.
"We're the happiest people in the world and we're thrilled that you brought the Berlin Wall down 25 years ago," declared Berlin's Mayor Klaus Wowereit, according to Reuters. "Nothing and no one can stand in the way of freedom."
Musical performances and festivities attracted more than a million people to the German capital. They were treated to the Berlin Staatskapelle orchestra playing Beethoven's 9th Symphony "Ode to Joy" at the symbolic Brandenburg Gate; Peter Gabriel performing a rendition of "Heroes," as well as several other performances from German artists.
The Berlin Wall was built in 1961, and stretched for 96 miles, serving as the dividing line between West and East Germany. Some 138 people are estimated to have died trying to flee the Soviet-occupied East for the West before demonstrators first breached the wall on Nov. 11, 1989, which paved the way for German reunification a year later.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the fall of the wall as an event that showed "dreams can come true." She said the event is remembered as a triumph of the human spirit over tyranny and division.
"The fall of the Berlin Wall showed us that dreams can come true and that nothing has to stay the way it is, no matter how high the hurdles might seem to be," Merkel said.
"It showed that we have the power to shape our destiny and make things better," she added, expressing hopes that the event can encourage people in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere around the world. "It was a victory of freedom over bondage."
Sunday's festivities also included an appearance by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, often credited for helping end the Cold War. Gorbachev warned, however, that the Ukraine crisis could start a new Cold War.
"Bloodshed in Europe and the Middle East against the backdrop of a breakdown in dialogue between the major powers is of enormous concern," he said, according to BBC News.
"The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some are even saying that it's already begun."
Pope Francis also celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall from the Vatican, and in his Angelus on Sunday said that people "need bridges, not walls," Vatican Radio reported.
The Roman Catholic Church leader added that "the fall happened suddenly, but it was made possible by the long and arduous efforts of many people who had fought for this, prayed and suffered, some even sacrificing their lives." He reminded the audience that a leading role was also played by Saint Pope John Paul II.
Francis prayed that "with God's help, all men and women of good will would continue to spread a culture of encounter, with the aim of bringing down all the walls that still divide the world.''