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Leaders honored at Berlin Wall memorial

November 01, 2009|Associated Press

BERLIN — Three statesmen who oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall, which led to the collapse of communism in Europe, gathered here Saturday to reflect on the changes they helped usher in 20 years ago.

Former President George H.W. Bush; the last Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev; and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl were honored at a ceremony in Berlin.

Kohl, 79, who went on to become the first chancellor of a reunited Germany, recalled the heady days that led up to the Nov. 9, 1989, collapse of the wall and Washington's and Moscow's willingness to let it fall.

"We achieved reunification together, with peace and freedom and with the support of our neighbors," Kohl said.

"We don't have many reasons in our history to be proud," Kohl said. "But those years when I was chancellor . . . I have every reason to be proud. I have nothing better, nothing to be more proud of than German reunification."

Bush, 85, praised his fellow statesmen for their cooperation and for seizing the moment, but noted that the events that paved the way for the wall's collapse took place not in capital cities but "in the hearts and minds of the people who so long had to strive for their God-given rights."

Gorbachev, 78, recalled the efforts of the many statesmen who fought throughout the decades of the Cold War for reconciliation between Russia, Germany and the West in small steps and tiny concessions.

"How difficult it all was!" Gorbachev said, noting that the initial working relationship between him and Kohl was thorny.

The ceremony ended with the playing of Germany's national anthem -- a rarity at public events in this nation, which for decades after the end of Nazism shunned overt displays of national pride.

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