An emotional outpouring of tens of thousands of Germans celebrated the symbolic reunion of East and West at the opening Friday of the Brandenburg Gate, for years the symbol of their division.
With sparkling wine, lighted sparklers and shouted greetings, they passed back and forth in both directions. It appeared that greater numbers started on the East German side of the wall, as yet another festival of freedom got under way despite heavy rains and rolling clouds of fog.The arches of the towering gate, which became an identifying landmark of greater Berlin shortly after the current version was built two centuries ago, had never been bricked up. It was the Berlin Wall, built by the Soviet-backed East German government right in front of the gate, that had stymied movement between the two halves of the city since 1961.
New passageways cut through the wall Thursday night opened the way for thousands of Germans to surge under the arches and around the sandstone columns, five stories high, which carry a winged chariot of victory on their shoulders.
"Here were the parades of Nazis as well as of Soviets, but today it's a parade of the people," said Bernd Turley, a 30-year-old builder from East Berlin.
It was less of a parade than a joyful mob. Thousands had waited for hours under dripping skies for the 3 p.m. official ceremony, and finally security gave way.
People broke through metal barriers and rushed ahead, popping open bottles of champagne, lighting sparklers and, once again, dancing on the remains of the wall.
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who called the opening of the gate "fantastic," and East German premier Hans Modrow, who said its new purpose would be "to serve the peace," met at the border to officially declare the moment of the opening had arrived. But their speeches were heard by few in the mob.
Bands blared out German folk songs as people joined in song, and some East Germans sang the West German national anthem. They carried flags _ mostly West German _ and signs and banners proclaiming sentiments such as "Come Together" and "Berlin, One City, One Nation."
"The symbolism of the Brandenburg Gate comes from my childhood," said Manfred Zamzow, 40, a West Berlin university teacher. "When I was 4 or 5 we had stamps with the Brandenburg Gate on it. Later, I sold Brandenburg Gate models to help Berlin's economy."
As a student, Zamzow said, he used to be a tourist guide who would tell foreign visitors to West Germany how the gate was blocked by a wall that had its roots in 1933, in the actions of the Third Reich.