BERLIN — East Germans celebrated the Berlin Wall's 25th anniversary today with a massive rally and military parade, sparking an immediate U.S. protest that the marching troops violated postwar agreements.
The U.S. mission in West Berlin said the parade was a "clear-cut violation" of postwar agreements barring the presence of East German troops in East Berlin and West German troops in West Berlin.
"This parade is all the more deplorable in that it is meant as commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall in defiance of the most fundamental human rights," the mission said.
The statement was telexed to major news media even as gun-wielding troops continued to march down the Karl Marx Allee in East Berlin and military vehicles rumbled along the broad boulevard.
Defense Against West
For Communist East Germans, the 28-mile-long gray, concrete barrier is an "anti-fascist protection wall" aimed at repelling potential attacks from the West.
"Our efforts of Aug. 13 served peace," East German leader Erich Honecker told thousands of countrymen who jammed into the Karl Marx Allee.
But for West Germans, the wall represents a cruel barrier separating family and friends and hindering Bonn's goal of reuniting the two German states divided after World War II.
"We will never and can never get used to this monument of inhumanity," West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told about 1,500 people gathered for a somber ceremony at the Reichstag, the former Parliament building.
"The leadership of the GDR (East Germany) is celebrating this day with pomp and military pageantry. That is filled with cynicism," the Christian Democratic leader added.
East German soldiers began building the wall Aug. 13, 1961, to divide the former German capital 110 miles inside East German territory into eastern and western sectors and staunch the flow of East Germans westward.
Since then 74 people have been killed trying to escape over the wall to the West, while more than 4,900 people have succeeded, West German police say.
The wall has some openings, known as checkpoints, where Westerners can cross into East Berlin. East Germans ordinarily are not allowed to travel the other way.