BERLIN – Germans marked a subdued 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (search) on Tuesday, with high unemployment in the formerly communist east and a sense in people's hearts that the nation has not yet fully reunited.
No big celebrations, parades or fireworks recalled Nov. 9, 1989, the day East Germany's (search) communist regime opened the wall almost by accident and set off national euphoria that peaked with German reunification 11 months later.
At a preserved section of the wall in central Berlin, Mayor Klaus Wowereit (search) laid a wreath for the more than 200 East Germans killed while trying to escape to the West during the barrier's 28-year existence.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search) issued a statement hailing Nov. 9 as "a day of the triumph of freedom and democracy," and praised East Germans for overthrowing communist rule peacefully.
But a former East German pro-democracy activist captured much of the eastern mood, saying he was "not so happy" because of the region's mass unemployment.
"Many people no longer value the wonderful gift of freedom because they say: What use is freedom if they are shut out from jobs?" Friedrich Schorlemmer, a Protestant minister, said on WDR radio.
As time has passed, Germans have focused on the staggering cost of rebuilding the east, not the peaceful revolution that toppled the wall and the Stalinist rulers who built it.
Architects of reunification, led by former Chancellor Helmut Kohl (search), urged Germans to take pride in their achievements anyway.
"We have every reason to be proud," Kohl was quoted as saying in the Bild newspaper. "Of course, a lot remains to be done and major efforts are still needed in some places to create flowering landscapes. And we will make it."
But critics often cite Kohl's 1990 promise of flowering landscapes for the east as a reason for the disillusionment that followed when West German capitalism swept away eastern industry and several million jobs.
The east's jobless rate — 17.5 percent — is more than twice that of the west.
Kohl conceded that after 40 years apart at Europe's Cold War front line, Germany's division "ran much deeper than I thought."
The wall was brought down by the offhand remark of a communist official at a Nov. 9, 1989, news conference.
Under pressure from nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations, East Germany's regime was looking for ways to contain the revolt. Guenter Schabowski, the ruling Politburo's spokesman, made the announcement: East Germany was lifting restrictions on travel across its border with West Germany after nearly three decades of isolation.
Asked by a reporter when the new regulation would take effect, Schabowski fumbled, then said "immediately, without delay."
That night, east Berliners were jamming the first crossing to West Berlin. In a dramatic moment that helped end the Cold War, armed East German border guards gave up and let them cross. Later that night, Berliners danced on the wall.
But the east's economic problems and up to $1.9 trillion in government subsidies to the region have fueled resentment on both sides. And clashing experiences under communism and capitalism still have Germans talking about a lingering "wall in the heads."
"Once upon a time, we hugged each other with tears in our eyes. That wouldn't happen anymore now," East German-born entertainer Achim Mentzel recently said.
"Of course we have different life histories in the east and the west, but that doesn't mean we are two different peoples," countered former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who played a key role in reunification.
The wall was a 97-mile reinforced concrete barrier that ran through the center of the capital and around then-West Berlin.
Though only a few pieces remain standing, the wall and several museums dedicated to it remain tourist attractions.
Jewish leaders marked Nov. 9 for another reason. It's also the anniversary of the Nazis' 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom (search), or Night of Broken Glass, when synagogues and Jewish businesses across Germany were attacked.
About 100 Jews were killed and thousands deported to concentration camps in a prelude to the Holocaust.
"It is a day of joy, but it is also a day of shame and reflection," Schroeder said.