BERLIN – Germany celebrated the anniversary of its reunification Saturday with festivals, concerts and parades across the country.
In the capital, tens of thousands of people watched a massive-scale street performance featuring a pair of giant marionettes suspended by cranes marching slowly through downtown.
Wearing a green dress — and at times a yellow slicker overtop to fend off the drizzle— 25-foot "small giant" wandered one route looking for her partner — a 50-foot "big giant."
The big giant, clad as a deep-sea diver, was pulled by a crane from under the waters of the Spree river outside Berlin's main train station, then paraded past the federal Chancellory building along his route.
The spectacle, performed by France's Royale de Luxe theater company, culminated with the two finding each other at the landmark Brandenburg Gate — reuniting on the former dividing line between East and West Berlin.
Around 100 members of the theater company manipulated the marionettes' arms, legs and heads, bringing them together for an embrace before the cheering crowd.
Germany was separated into Soviet-aligned East Germany and NATO-allied West Germany for more than four decades until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and official reunification in 1990.
In a speech in the southwestern city of Saarbruecken, newly reelected Chancellor Angela Merkel reminded a crowd of about 1,000 people that German unity had not just "fallen from the sky" but was the result of years of "courage and determination." She said Germans need to keep this in mind when faced with issues like the current economic crisis or other global problems.
"Freedom and responsibility go together," she said.
The events in Saarbruecken, held there according to the tradition that the official Unity Day commemorations are held in the hometown of the president of parliament's upper house, started with a church service attended by Merkel and other top politicians.
As part of the day's ceremonies, Mikhail Gorbachev — the Soviet leader at the time of German reunification — was being presented with a prize by a Berlin-based foundation for his "dynamism of hope."
The Quadriga foundation's prize has been presented on Unity Day each year since 2003 to persons of "vision, courage and responsibility."
Security was tight for all events, following a series of extremist videos recently posted on the Internet that mentioned Germany directly, but no incidents were reported.
The videos, released before the Sept. 27 national election, made references to jihad, or holy war, and retribution against Germany, but did not mention any specific threats.